The mother of the girl known as "Baby Hope" after her body was mysteriously dumped in the woods in 1991 revealed for the first time Tuesday that she didn't report the girl missing because she was afraid no one would listen after the child's father took her.
Police said on Saturday they had solved the mystery of the decades-old cold case, arresting a cousin for allegedly smothering the 4-year-old to death after raping her. Police said the cousin and his sister, who's now dead, together devised a plan to dispose of her body in a cooler in the woods in upper Manhattan in 1991.
Investigators did not know the identity of the child, whose real name is Anjelica Castillo, until just recently, after publicity about the case this summer led to a tip that brought them to her relatives.
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Police say the child's parents had split up and that she and a sister were not living with her mother when she was attacked and killed.
Her mother, Margarita Castillo, was asked in an exclusive interview with Telemundo News Tuesday why she didn't report her daughter missing.
"Because she wasn't missing -- her father took them away and maybe that was my mistake, let him take them away," she said in Spanish. "I did not go to the police because I was afraid of not being heard. I was afraid, not knowing the language."
Castillo said her main regret was letting Anjelica's father take her after they split. She said she doesn't know where he is now.
"Maybe they knew where I was, but I never knew where they were," she said.
Police say the girl was living with the suspect's sister in Queens when she was killed. Investigators now believe Anjelica was also tortured at that home, at times tied to a table and denied water, according to law enforcement sources.