NYC police finally identify child found dead 22 years ago

(CBS News) NEW YORK -- There has been a break in a murder case that has stumped New York City police for more than two decades. The victim was a young girl.

Jerry Giorgio worked the Baby Hope case for the New York police. Now retired, he is elated the case may finally be closing. CBS News

For more than 20 years, Jerry Giorgio worked the most personal case of his five-decade-long career.

It could finally be closing.

"I was elated, to say the least," said Giorgio.

In July 1991, a cooler was found just off New York City's West Side Highway. Inside was the body of a 4-and-a-half year-old girl. She was bound, malnourished and sexually abused.

"There's just a special thing about when it happens to a child," said Giorgio, who never stopped thinking about her. "An innocent child who can't defend herself ... Like a hand came up from this little baby and clutched at our heart and took a piece of us, and she became part of our family. Nobody else claimed her. We referred to her as our baby."

Giorgio's wife picked out the white dress the child was buried in. About 500 people came to her funeral, arranged by the handful of detectives working the case. She couldn't be identified, so she was known as "Baby Hope."

A sketch of Baby Hope that appeared in the New York Daily News in 1991. CBS News

That was, until Tuesday.

New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly announced they have an ID. "I do want to commend the detectives," he told reporters, "for never giving up, staying on this case."

A tip came in after police posted flyers in the area this summer. Someone came forward saying they might know a relative.

That led detectives to the child's mother. Her DNA was a match. For the time being, police are not releasing Baby Hope's name, nor the names of the child's mother or father, fearing it might compromise the investigation.

Giorgio retired in July, so he will not be making an arrest. But he said as the case nears completion, there is one more thing he can do: make sure the tombstone gets changed, so the child known for 22 years as Hope finally gets her real name back.