NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Margarita Castillo was silent for 22 years while her 4-year-old daughter’s gravestone stood unmarked, and on Tuesday, she said fear kept her from reporting her daughter was missing.
As CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported, Castillo now sheds tears for her daughter, Anjelica Castillo, who until recent days was known only as “Baby Hope.”
She said she was held back from reporting Anjelica because of “fear of going onto an office and not knowing the language, that no one would help — the fear, the ignorance.”
Anjelica’s body was found in a cooler along the Henry Hudson Parkway in Upper Manhattan in July 1991.
Margarita Castillo was separated from her husband at the time Anjelica disappeared. She had taken her two daughters – including Anjelica – to see their father and left them there for several days.
“I returned and I found my two daughters with the woman, but their father wasn’t there She told me, ‘My uncle isn’t here, but here are your two daughters.” (I said), ‘OK, I’ll take them;’ (she said), ‘no, because my uncle is coming back later and it’s better for you to take them when he’s here,’” Castillo said.
“So when I returned, they were not there,” she continued.
Margarita Castillo assumed her children were being taken care of by family members. It was not until several years later that she got a call from Conrado Juarez – Anjelica’s cousin, and the man police said confessed to sexually abusing and smothering her.
Juarez reportedly told Margarita Castillo he was raising her four daughters and wanted money. But Castillo said when she showed up at his home, he only had one of the girls and did not know anything about Anjelica.
“(He said), ‘I don’t know where she is, but my sister told me she died.’ I said, ‘How? Where is she? How? Where is she buried?’ (He said), ‘I don’t know,’ he stood up – ‘We’ll talk,’” Castillo said.
But even then, Castillo did not go to police, even though their search for her daughter’s identity never stopped.
“Maybe they had her with another family member,” she said. “That was my hope that one day I would find her.”
Police said Juarez confessed to killing the girl. Juarez claimed he accidentally smothered her to keep her quiet after sexually abusing her, police said. He told authorities that his sister, who is now dead, helped him dispose of the body, police said.
Juarez, 52, was charged with felony murder late Saturday. He pleaded not guilty and was remanded to custody.
“What else can I say? I wouldn’t wish this on anyone,” she said.
Margarita Castillo spoke out for the first time on Monday. But at that point, she only said, “we are never going to have peace” and added, “we are just waiting for justice.”
Later Tuesday, Lorena Ramirez, Anjelica’s younger sister, also talked about the situation, CBS 2’s Tracee Carrasco reported.
“She’s not doing very well,” Ramirez said of her mother. “She lost a daughter.”
Ramirez added, “I’m just relieved that they caught the bad guy, but still pretty sad.”
Also Tuesday, another sister, Laurencita Ramirez, said she wished she’d had a chance to know her sibling.
Ramirez told the New York Post she first found out she had a sister who was killed when she was 11 years old.
But it wasn’t until last week that she heard about the “Baby Hope” case.
“When I saw the news about Baby Hope on Tuesday, I got this feeling in my stomach,” she told the Post. “I felt something like, ‘Could it be my sister?’ I was just crying because it was so horrible.”
Ramirez said her mother told her Anjelica would have looked just like her had she lived. The 27-year-old Ramirez has the same nose, eyes and mouth as a police sketch of Anjelica.
She said she never met Juarez.
Detectives from the 34th Precinct were the ones that named the child “Baby Hope” and pitched in with their own money to buy the girl a headstone and cemetery plot at St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx in 1993.
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