New York police believe they’ve found Baby Hope’s mother

Written by Max Ehrenfreund

The New York Police Department has identified a woman they believe to be the mother of the child found dead more than 20 years ago who became known as Baby Hope. Police have not yet named the woman, but a spokesman said she was cooperating with investigators.

Baby Hope’s case horrified the country because of the condition in which her body was found:

The case dates to July 23, 1991, when a road worker discovered the remains of the 3- to 5-year-old girl inside a picnic cooler along the Henry Hudson Parkway after smelling something rotting. Her body was unclothed and malnourished and showed signs of possible sex abuse.

Detectives theorized at the time that she had been suffocated before being dumped like garbage on a grassy incline. They estimated she was dead six to eight days before the cooler was found.

In an interview in July, retired Detective Jerry Giorgio said he had pursued hundreds of leads but none panned out. He had the case from 1991 until he retired from the force. Later, as an investigator for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, he kept up with it. His name and contact information are still on a website dedicated to the girl.

“It was so frustrating,” he said recently. “We initially thought we’ll get her identified and go from there and probably solve the case. It didn’t happen.”

As the frustration mounted, so did detectives’ affection for the victim. They began calling her “our baby.” Eventually she became “Baby Hope” — because they hoped and prayed they’d solve the case, Giorgio said.

He was instrumental in organizing a burial for the girl in 1993. Hundreds attended the funeral. The girl was dressed in a white frock and buried in a white coffin. Associated Press

Police made a new appeal to the public for information regarding the child this summer, and their efforts were successful:

After a push by the police this summer to find new information about the case, they received a tip from a woman who thought she might know the sister of Baby Hope, said the official, who was familiar with the investigation. Using the information the woman provided, the police interviewed several people and eventually confirmed the mother’s identity through scientific evidence, the official said. . . .

This summer, the police returned to the area where she was found to ask residents for help in solving the case. They put up posters and handed out fliers with police sketches of how the girl might have looked at the time of her death. They offered a $12,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest or a conviction.

The campaign appears to have worked. The tip was received at a Crime Stoppers phone line in July.

A woman who lives in New York reported that she had spoken to a woman who said she had a sister who had been killed, the law enforcement official said. The woman who provided the tip said she had seen the recent news coverage about the case and suggested it was possible that this woman was Baby Hope’s sister.

In 2011, the medical examiner’s office obtained a complete DNA profile for Baby Hope after exhuming her body from St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx, where she had been buried. But there were no matches when they tested it against DNA databases of convicted felons or active missing person cases. The New York Times

No charges have been filed in Baby Hope’s case so far.

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