Police are still trying to find the person who attacked and killed a 30-year-old woman who was jogging in Howard Beach over the summer, and now they have offered a profile of her murderer. Investigators believe the suspect appeared to know the area very well, but has "likely stopped visiting or living in the park abruptly... He may have even suggested his avoidance of the park was due to the danger there."
Karina Vetrano, an avid runner, had left her house at 5 p.m. on August 2nd to jog in her Queens neighborhood. Her father, Philip Vetrano, usually joined her during these runs, but stayed home due to an injury. He became worried when he couldn't reach her by 7 p.m., and called a neighbor in the police department. Vetrano soon joined the NYPD on a search that tracked her cellphone to Spring Creek Park, where he
found his daughter's body in a tall, weeded area.
Her teeth were broken and police found signs of sexual abuse. NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said that she "put up a ferocious fight right until the end," also noting, "She also had bruising on her body, we believe from being dragged through those woods" and that she had weeds in her hands: "She was grabbing onto anything she could at that point."
Neighbors say that the park, which is overgrown with weeds, attracts vagrants. Over $285,000 has been raised as a reward for information leading to her killer, but the authorities have hit dead ends. The NYPD and Queens DA have now asked the state to use more advanced DNA techniques to help assist in the investigation: Familial searching, which DA Richard Brown says would help find male relatives of the suspect.
The FBI joined the NYPD to develop a profile of the suspect, and here's what the NYPD released:
Community assistance is needed to identify the individual who assaulted Karina Vetrano in Spring Creek Park, Howard Beach, commonly referred to as "The Weeds," on Tuesday, August 2, 2016. Karina Vetrano was a young, vibrant woman, who recently began working as a speech pathologist helping autistic children improve their lives.
Previously, a sketch was released depicting an individual seen near the location of the assault. This unidentified individual may have witnessed something and not realized its importance at the time.
The person who assaulted Karina is still at large and the community is urged to recognize the importance of the below information and characteristics regarding this person:
1. The person who committed the assault is likely familiar with the park and he may have spent time there for any of a variety of reasons. The park is routinely used by fisherman, dirt bike riders, environmentalists, and other outdoor enthusiasts. Certain areas within the park serve as a gathering place for homeless and recreational drug and alcohol users.
2. He may have been frequenting or even living in the park for days, weeks, or months prior to the assault and was likely a familiar face to others who use the park on a regular basis.
3. Following the assault on Karina, he likely stopped visiting or living in the park abruptly. He may have moved his recreational activities or residence to another area of the borough or city. He may have provided a seemingly reasonable excuse for this change in behavior to others. He may have even suggested his avoidance of the park was due to the danger there.
4. In the hours following the assault on Karina, anyone encountering him may have observed him to be disheveled in appearance with possible scratches or cuts to his hands, arms, neck, or face. It could have appeared that he was in some type of fight or accident. He may have given any of a variety of excuses for his appearance.
5. Following the assault of Karina, he may have noticeably changed his level of alcohol, drug, or tobacco use. He may have paid careful attention to media reporting on the assault of Karina. He may have taken steps to limit his exposure to media reporting. He may have changed his appearance. In any case, his change in behavior may have been noticed by someone close to him, and may have been casually dismissed with or without explanation from him.
Members of the community are urged to come forward with any information they have, including if they believe they have encountered or know this person. Please contact the New York City Police Department to report information you may have.
Vetrano's grieving father hopes the state will authorize familial searching, "You could find the murderer. You would find a direct link. It would narrow it down tremendously."
The practice is "imperfect" and controversial, given racial disparities in DNA databases, but has had some success, helping LA authorities find a serial killer because his father was in the state database. Only nine states use it; New York is not one of them.
According to NBC New York, officials will discuss the matter on Friday. Janine Kava, a spokeswoman for the state Commission on Forensic Science, told NBC investigators will continue use "cutting-edge tools" to solve crimes "without compromising individual protections."
Philip Vetrano is petitioning for NY State to use the technique, "Justice for my daughter, retribution, that is everything I live for. That's all I do."