A Manhattan grand jury has indicted Conrado Juarez, who was arrested earlier this month in connection with the 1991 murder of 4-year-old Anjelica Castillo, known for decades only as "Baby Hope."
Juarez, 52, did not appear in court for the procedural hearing on Tuesday at his attorney's request.
"He's holding up. He is resolute about seeing this through," Michael Croce said of his client.
On October 12, New York police announced Juarez's arrest, saying he confessed to the slaying during interrogation.
According to New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Juarez, who was 30 at the time of the crime, said he went to an apartment in Queens shared by seven of his relatives and saw Anjelica in the hallway. Juarez told police he smothered her with a pillow while raping her.
Outside the court on Tuesday, Juarez's attorney cast doubt on the confession, which he said took place after 12 to 14 hours of questioning.
"I don't trust any statements that were made by any individual after being in custody for such an extended period of time," Croce said. "I would expect that we will find out that statement was not videotaped or recorded, and that is by design."
In 1991, construction workers found the body of Anjelica, who had not been reported missing, bound and in a garbage bag, hidden under some soda cans inside a blue and white cooler. She had been smothered and sexually molested, and her body was so decomposed that several sketches were made to suggest what she looked like.
The young victim became an emotional symbol for the NYPD.
Two years after she was found, the girl was laid to rest in a donated plot, buried in a white dress bought by a detective's wife, with a tombstone paid for by detectives. "Because we care" was the inscription at the bottom of the tombstone.
Each year, on the anniversary of the July 23, 1991, discovery of her body, police would canvass nearby neighborhoods, handing out fliers and asking people for information.
It was an anonymous tip called in after the latest canvass in July that helped crack the case, Kelly said. The tip led detectives to Anjelica's sister, now an adult; from there, they identified the woman believed to be the girl's mother.
Changes in forensic science also helped propel the investigation, Kelly said. The girl's body was exhumed in 2006, and a DNA profile was built in 2011. Earlier this month the office of the chief medical examiner made a DNA match between the girl and her mother.
From there, investigators constructed a family tree, and the trail led them to Juarez, Kelly said.
On Tuesday, Juarez's attorney said he had not seen any of the evidence against his client.
"I would be interested in seeing that physical evidence," Croce said.
He also suggested that it was inappropriate for a New York Times journalist to have interviewed Juarez in prison at Rikers Island.
In the interview published last week, Juarez reportedly denied killing Anjelica, saying he was forced by detectives to make a false confession.
Jaurez is expected to appear in court on Nov. 21.