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NEW YORK CITY (CNN) — An indictment unsealed in Manhattan criminal court on Thursday formally charged suspect Conrado Juarez with the 1991 slaying of 4-year-old Anjelica Castillo, known for decades only as "Baby Hope."
Juarez, 52, in an orange jumpsuit and a translator at his side, pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder in the second degree.
Assistant District Attorney Melissa Mourges read portions of a statement, unsealed in court, taken when Juarez allegedly confessed after his October arrest.
The document said that Juarez "admitted that he had sex with the victim and killed her by smothering her with a pillow, then packed her into the cooler and brought the cooler uptown and left it as previously described."
Outside court, Juarez's attorney Michael Croce called the alleged confession "completely suspect," saying his client was interrogated for more than 13 hours.
Croce said he was told a police translator helped facilitate the confession. "That's always problematic for me," he said, casting doubt on its "veracity" and "accuracy."
Last month, police said that Juarez — 30 at the time — visited a Queens apartment shared by seven of his relatives and saw Anjelica in the hallway.
In 1991, construction workers found the body of Anjelica — who had not been reported missing — bound and stuffed in a garbage bag. The bag was hidden under some soda cans inside a blue and white cooler. She had been smothered and sexually molested, police said. Her body was so decomposed that several sketches were made in attempts to capture what she looked like.
The young victim became an emotional symbol for the NYPD and its unsolved cases.
Two years after she was found, the girl was laid to rest in a donated plot. She was buried in a white dress bought by a detective's wife, with a tombstone paid for by detectives to mark her grave. "Because we care" said an inscription at the bottom of the tombstone.
Each year, on the anniversary of the July 23, 1991, discovery of her body, police canvassed nearby neighborhoods, handing out fliers and seeking leads in the case.
An anonymous tip called in after the latest canvass in July helped crack the case, police said. It took detectives to Anjelica's sister, now an adult. The lead helped them identify the woman believed to be the girl's mother.
Anjelica's name was recently added to her tombstone, more than 20 years after her body was discovered.
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