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Man police say raped, killed 4-year-old ‘Baby Hope’ dies in custody

NYACK, N.Y. -- The man police say raped and killed the 4-year-old girl known for decades only as "Baby Hope," has died, authorities said.

Conrado Juarez, 58, died Sunday evening in criminal custody at the Montefiore Nyack Hospital in Nyack, New York, said Janine Kava, a spokeswoman for the New York State Commission of Correction. He'd previously been held at the Rockland County Jail.

Kava declined to comment on the manner and cause of Juarez's death, saying a commission investigation was underway.

An attorney for Juarez did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Juarez was awaiting trial on charges he raped and killed his cousin, Anjelica Castillo.

The little girl was known only as "Baby Hope" when construction workers found her abused and decomposed body in 1991 in an ice chest by the side of a New York roadway.

Anjelica's body was bound and in a garbage bag, hidden under some soda cans in a blue and white cooler. She had been smothered and sexually molested, and her body was so badly decomposed that several sketches were made to suggest what she looked like.

She was never reported missing.

Anjelica was identified in early 2013 after DNA tests were performed on her exhumed remains.

Juarez was arrested that year in what authorities described as the culmination of the 22-year-old cold case murder.

Detailing a nightmarish crime

Juarez confessed soon after his arrest, police said, though Juarez's attorney reportedly later argued in court the confession was coerced.

Juarez, who was 30 at the time of the alleged crime, said he went to an apartment in Queens shared by seven of his relatives and saw Anjelica in the hallway, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters as he announced Juarez's arrest.

Juarez told police he smothered Anjelica with a pillow while raping her.

When the girl went motionless, Juarez told police, he summoned his sister from another room. It was she who told Juarez to get rid of the body and who provided the cooler, Kelly said.

Juarez then "folded the girl in half," tied her, placed her in a garbage bag inside the cooler and placed soda cans on top of her body, New York Assistant District Attorney Melissa Mourges during Juarez's arraignment.

Juarez and his sister hailed a cab to Manhattan, dropped the cooler off in a wooded area near the parkway, then went their separate ways, authorities said.

By the time of Juarez's arrest, his sister, Balvena Juarez Ramirez, had died.