NEW YORK, United States (AFP) - New York police said on Saturday they have arrested a man who confessed to sexually abusing and murdering a little girl found stuffed in a picnic cooler 22 years ago.
Local media identified the suspect, Conrado Juarez of the Bronx, as a cousin of the four-year-old victim, who was named for the first time as Anjelica Castillo.
Police said Juarez, 52, was arrested late Friday and has been charged with second-degree murder.
New York police chief Ray Kelly said Juarez had confessed to the crime.
"Early this morning, Juarez admitted that he sexually assaulted Anjelica, that he smothered her and then disposed of the body with the aid of his sister (Balvina Juarez-Ramirez), who is now deceased," Kelly said.
He paid tribute to police officers, who he said worked tirelessly to track down the little girl's murderer.
The astonishing break in the case came thanks to a tip that enabled police to track down the girl's now adult sister and her mother.
For more than two decades, Castillo was known only as "Baby Hope," the name given to her by detectives who buried her in 1993, after none of her relatives came forward.
Her father had previously been the prime suspect.
The killing of the emaciated girl had shocked New York for its brutality and lack of clues.
Her body was found on July 23, 1991 inside a blue and white cooler left on an embankment at the Henry Hudson Parkway. Her body had first been bound and wrapped inside a plastic bag.
Juarez was picked up by officers near the restaurant where he was working in Manhattan.
"Today, NYPD investigators have given young Anjelica her due justice," Kelly said.