UPPER EAST SIDE — A tip that led cops to identify Baby Hope's mother came from a conversation that wasn't revealed to investigators for almost a decade, police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Tuesday.
The tipster only came forward after media outlets ran stories on the anniversary of the child's death last summer, Kelly said.
Baby Hope's body was found stuffed in a cooler in Inwood Hill Park 22 year ago. Cops recently took DNA samples that confirmed the mother's identity.
"I think it was an accumulation of things," Kelly said about the break in the case outside of the Council on Foreign Relations in the Upper East Side.
"[The tipster was] generally aware of [Baby Hope] and then saw the flier and also mentioned something about television that brought it about."
The tipster, who lives in Washington Heights, was washing clothes in a local laundry when she overheard a woman saying she believed she was Baby Hope's mother.
She didn't call police at the time, but remembered the conversation after seeing news reports in July.
That led detectives to Baby Hope's mother, who provided DNA samples.
"The DNA is what makes this case," Kelly said. "The body was exhumed in 2011. DNA was taken from the body. It ultimately matched with the mother's DNA, the mother was questioned and confirmed the relationship."
Baby Hope's mother, whose identity police are not releasing while the investigation is ongoing, told investigators she had two daughters who were taken away by an abusive husband in early 1991.
She claims she didn't report the girls missing out of fear the husband may hurt her or her daughters.
Months after the girls' disappearance, construction workers found a girl's emaciated, decomposed body inside a cooler covered with ice and Coca-Cola cans.
Police first believed someone would report the child missing, but nobody did. She was given the name "Baby Hope" and buried in a funeral on July 23, 1993.
Cold case detectives began their investigation in June of 1992, nearly a year after Baby Hope's death. They never gave up on finding out what happened to her, Kelly said.
"I think it was a manifestation of a lot of great work on the part of the detectives that never gave up," Kelly said. "This has been an investigation that's been conducted for the past 22 years."
Investigators have not named Baby Hope's father as a suspect, but want to speak with him.
"The investigation is going forward," Kelly said. "That's obviously part of it."