Cops recently circulated fliers of Baby Hope with an 'age progression' sketch of what she would look like if she lived (left), a sketch of Baby Hope in 1991 (right) and a picture of the cooler she was found in (bottom right).
Faith was finally rewarded in the “Baby Hope” murder.
Twenty-two years after the anonymous girl’s battered body was found stuffed inside a picnic cooler, cops were hunting her father as the prime suspect in the infamous killing, sources told the Daily News.
The dead girl’s mom never saw Hope again once the girl and her younger sister were spirited off by their dad in 1991, sources said. The father bolted with both daughters after the couple’s ugly split.
The victim’s emaciated body, wedged inside the blue picnic cooler, was found in a wooded stretch off the Henry Hudson Parkway in upper Manhattan on July 23, 1991. The little girl was naked, bound, beaten and sexually abused.
The mom, who told cops that she was terrified of the father, kept her terrible fears about the lost girl secret for years — even after the younger daughter was returned unharmed years later, sources said.
The mother insisted she believed Hope was still alive, and claimed the father repeatedly rebuffed her questions about the girl’s whereabouts.
“She believed the daughter was taken from her,” a police source told The News. “She said she made attempts to locate her and was unsuccessful.”
Investigators warned the sudden breakthrough in one of the city’s oldest and coldest cases did not mean an arrest was imminent.
“We have so much work to do,” one source told The News.
Cops believe the dad is still alive and living in New York City two decades after the body was found near the Dyckman St. exit in Inwood, according to a source. Another source said the father may be in Mexico.
Another loose end involved whether any other relatives knew what happened to helpless little Hope or why no one raised questions when the girl disappeared.
The father and his daughters moved among family members once the mom was out of the picture, police sources said.The mother was discounted as a suspect after interviews with both police and prosecutors, sources said.
Retired NYPD Detective Jerry Giorgio places flowers on Baby Hope's grave. Giorgio, who had worked on the case for more than two decades before retiring, says he is 'elated' about this new development.
The stunning advance in the long-stymied probe came after the NYPD made yet another push on the 22nd anniversary of the body’s discovery — and stirred up a phone tip that panned out.
The caller steered police to the tiny victim’s other, older sister, who was overheard talking about her dead sibling in a laundermat, sources said.
The sister led police to the mother, and cops were finally able to attach a name to the tortured tot dubbed “Baby Hope” by detectives.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly confirmed that a DNA match was made between the mother and Hope's remains.
DNA testing confirmed the link between the mom and the daughter, and left oft-disappointed investigators hopeful of solving the frustrating mystery.
“There was always hope — that’s why we named her ‘Baby Hope,’ ” said retired Detective Jerry Giorgio, who worked the case for more than two decades until retiring last year.
“Just getting her identified means a great deal,” said Giorgio. “This is absolutely one of the best days I’ve had in my career.”
The tiny victim’s DNA sample was taken when her body was exhumed from her Bronx gravesite in 2006. Authorities believed the girl was between ages 3 and 5 when she was killed.