October 9th, 2013
I’ve posted before about Baby Hope. While working on my book The Restless Sleep I asked a friend of mine who works at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner which case haunted him the most. He didn’t hesitate when answering: Baby Hope.
Baby Hope (they put her age at between three and five years old) was found stuffed into a blue and white picnic cooler in a park off the Henry Hudson Parkway on July 23, 1991. The details they were able to glean about her brief life from the autopsy are grim.
Apparently they have just identified the mother! So, what was Baby Hope’s name? And why did the mother never report her missing?? You can read more about the new developments in this New York Times piece.
The picture below comes from a Daily Mail piece about the case that appeared this summer, when the Cold Case Squad made a new push to solve that case, a push that was clearly successful. Now that they know who Baby Hope was they can start to question those who knew her.
Great work, NYPD, the Bronx Violent Felony Squad, Forensic Investigations, NYPD attorneys and everyone else who worked on this case, and thank you for hanging in there and not giving up on this case.
Update: Baby Hope was Anjelica Castillo. She was born in Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens in 1987, so she was 4 years old when she died. Her cousin Conrado Juarez, 52, sexually abused her and killed her and his sister, Balvina Juarez- Ramirez helped him dump Anjelica’s body. He’s been arrested, Balvina is deceased.
Update: Another New York Times piece about Baby Hope, this one featuring Jerry Giorgia, the former lead detective on the case.
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September 4th, 2013
Twenty-five years ago, in February, 1988, Selena Cooper, 29, and her daughter Joi Little, 9, were hog-tied, raped and murdered by Robert Fleming.
I learned about this case while I was writing my book about the NYPD’s Cold Case Squad and it always enraged me. On top of the horrible fact that some guy raped and murdered a mother and daughter—a 9 year old child—there was this: DNA from a vaginal swab of Joi Little had been misplaced.
But this is not the fact that enrages me. Cold case detectives kept at it and found the tube in 2003 (the evidence was given a Manhattan storage number even though it was a Bronx case, so it was sitting in a box at the Manhattan Property Clerk). They took the evidence to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner who tested it and entered into the DNA database. They got a hit. Robert Fleming.
So they had the man who had raped and sodomized a 9 year old child and her mother. They had the man who had hog tied mother and child, their feet tied to each other and in such a way so that their legs were left wide open, the daughter bleeding out from a torn cervix. (This is how Joi Little’s grandmother found her and her mother.)
They had this animal, but there wasn’t a damn thing they could do about it. At this point they only had evidence that Robert Fleming had raped Joi Little and the statute of limitations for rape had passed.
One of the justifications given for a statute of limitations for rape is that years later it’s difficult to determine whether or not the sex was consensual. I can’t imagine what the argument can be for a statute of limitations involving sex with a child. It doesn’t matter how many years go by, there is absolutely no defense for having sex with a 9 year old, it is never consensual.
Apparently Fleming was ultimately charged with sexually-motivated murder, so while they couldn’t charge him with rape, the evidence for the rape became part of the murder case they successfully built.
Because today, Robert Fleming was sentenced to 25 years to life for each murder, or 50 years to life. Before hearing his sentence Robert Fleming panicked. He started threatening to sue his lawyer, the judge, and finally cold case Detective Wendell Stradford, who Fleming had confessed to. Fleming was removed from the courtroom.
We don’t know the order of events. We don’t know for instance, if Joi watched as Robert Fleming raped, sodomized and murdered her mother. Maybe Joi was already dead by this time, and it was her mother who got to watch as her daughter was raped, sodomized and murdered, only to endure the very same thing herself and next to the dead body of her little girl. Any way you order what happened it’s horrible.
After the family made their statement, a more composed Robert Fleming returned to give his statement. He never apologized to the family. When he saw that tv cameras were in the courtroom he said, “I’m glad this is going to be on TV, so everyone can see me standing tall.” Yeah right, that’s what people will see. When I heard about Fleming’s statements I immediately thought of the recent bizarre statements made by Ariel Castro at his sentencing. And we know how Ariel Castro ended up.
A lot of people worked on this case, and I am only mentioning the tiniest fraction of them, but cold case Detective Emma Principe initially had the case, then Detective Margie Yee, followed by Detective Carl (aka Chuck) Harrison, and finally Detective Wendell Stradford, who, together with Bronx ADA Nancy Borko, built a strong case, brought it to court, and put Robert Fleming away.
Great work all. These two words seem so inadequate for what you have done, but: thank you.
Update: News 12 has posted some footage of Fleming’s statements/rant. And the Daily News has published a story with pictures of relieved relatives.
Another Update: Some very good points from retired cold case commander Vito Spano about where we were with DNA analysis in 1988 and how it relates to this case.
(The picture above is a school photograph of Joi Little.)
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July 24th, 2013
I wrote about the Baby Hope case in my book The Restless Sleep because a friend of mine who works at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner told me the case haunted him. The details of her brief life and her death are grim.
It may be a long shot, but it’s good to read that the Cold Case Squad is still out there, doing what they can.
The picture below comes from a Daily Mail piece about the case.
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June 19th, 2013
People often ask in the comments section about what to do or who to call about an unsolved murder. The answers to those questions are on the left under the heading: Getting Help – Contacting a Cold Case Squad.
First read the document titled Before You Contact a Cold Case Squad. Then look up the number in the document Cold Case Squad and Other Organizations.
If you can’t find a number for your city or town on my list, call your local police department and ask them if they have a cold case squad or a person in their homicide squad who specializes in cold cases. If they don’t then ask to speak to someone in their homicide squad. If you don’t get what you believe is a decent response, then go to the document on the left titled, Escalating Your Case.
If you have specific questions after reading through these instructions, or as you go along, please ask here, but come back to see the answer!
NOTE: If you don’t have the information you need to give to the police, you might try going to the library first before contacting them. I give instructions for that here.
As you gather information, please keep in mind the amazing story of Joselyn Martinez. Ms. Martinez really did her homework and as a result, the killer of her father was found and brought to justice. There are so many resources available on the internet now.
If you are asking for information about a murder victim who is unrelated to you (a murder you read about or that happened near you, or perhaps someone you knew a little) and you’ve always been curious to know what happened, you should also begin online and at the library.
This is an old picture of Police Laboratory equipment.
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