Famed NYPD detective Jerry Giorgio, whose career inspired a character on the TV show “Law & Order” and who is forever linked to the Baby Hope case, died Friday at age 84.
Giorgio, whose 38-year law enforcement career stretched from 1959 to 1997, for years held deep regret that didn’t figure out who killed a 4-year-old girl whose naked and bound body was found in 1991 stuffed into an Igloo cooler and dumped in Inwood Park, along the Henry Hudson Parkway.
Two years later, with no resolution to the case in sight, Giorgio and other cops gave the child the dignity in death she never had in life.
They named her Baby Hope and arranged for Campbell Funeral Home to prepare her body and for the Archdiocese to help with her funeral. Giorgio’s wife, Kay, bought the dress in which the little girl was buried.
“There was always hope. That’s why we named her Baby Hope,” Giorgio once told the News. “That’s why we named her Baby Hope.”
Giorgio, who worked another 15 years as an investigator with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office after leaving the NYPD, continued with other detectives to pursue leads in the sensational killing.
“He would think about it 24/7,’’ said his son-in-law, Thomas Jocelyn. “He really lived it as much as he could.”
The mystery was finally solved in April 2013. A tip gave Baby Hope a name: Anjelica Castillo.
Six months later, Conrado Juarez, a 54-year-old cousin, was charged in Angelica’s death. He admitted to sexually assaulting and smothering the child, authorities said. His case is pending.
To Giorgio’s daughter, Lisa Jocelyn, Giorgio was “bigger than life.”
“He was the best dad ever. He did it his way,” she said. “He just always helped everyone.”
Giorgio, whose license plate was SLEUTH and whose work was the inspiration for Det. Lenny Briscoe, who was Jerry Orbach’s character on “Law & Order, also made headlines with an arrest in the 1981 killing of a 32-year-old pediatric surgery resident at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.
A year earlier, he got a stagehand to confess to the rape and murder of a violinist at the Metropolitan Opera.
Giorgio was always ready to help other detectives, said Det. Mike Houilhan, who says Giorgio taught him a lot about his craft.
“He was like EF Hutton. When he talked, everyone listened,” said Houlihan, who worked with Giorgio at the 34th Precinct in upper Manhattan. “He was great at interviewing. He had great technique. He saw through people. He saw from their body language how he had to approach people.
“He was a legend — and just a great, great guy.”
“Gerry was a quality human being and a talented detective. He was professional, relentless, articulate, compassionate, well liked and people enjoyed his company,” said Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association.
Giorgio will be waked Sunday and Monday at the Yannantuono Burr Davis Sharpe Funeral Home, in Mount Vernon, the DEA said, with his funeral on Tuesday at the Annunciation Church, in Yonkers.