The 30-year-old jogger was strangled and possibly sexually assaulted, horrifying the community. Police believe the vicious attack may be random, and they have DNA evidence.
New York police have a suspect in custody in the murder of slain jogger Karina Vetrano. However, the trial of Chanel Lewis ended in a mistrial on November 20, 2018 after the defense attacked the credibility of the DNA evidence and his confessions. Prosecutors have indicated they will try him again.
ABC 7 said Vetrano’s parents had spoken out about the case again on February 2 hoping to get more attention to it. The revelation that a suspect was in custody in the high-profile slaying emerged on February 4.
The suspect was identified as Chanel Lewis, 20, and he was criminally charged. You can read more about Lewis here.
On August 31, police did release a sketch of a man they want to talk to because he was seen by a utility worker coming out of the park near the time Vetrano died. They aren’t calling him a suspect or person of interest though. Read more about that and see the sketch here. It’s not clear whether that man has any connection to the suspect now in custody.
Less than a week later, another jogger from New York, Vanessa Marcotte, 27, a Google employee, was murdered in Princeton, Massachusetts when she went on a run. Marcotte’s murder is also unsolved; she was burned and possibly sexually assaulted.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Vetrano Had a Master’s Degree & Worked in a Wine Bar
The Daily Beast said Vetrano taped the words “self-respect” above her bedroom mirror and was close to her family; her father found her body while searching for her with police.
He usually jogged with her but didn’t go because of his back was hurting. “She loved butterflies, she loved rainbows, she loved nature,” her father, Philip Vetrano, said at a press conference. Friends recalled her as gentle and sweet.
Karina worked as a caterer at Vetro Restaurant and Wine Bar, said The New York Daily News, adding that Vetrano’s passions were writing and jogging, even though she’d been told as a child she might not run again because of surgeries to her legs.
Vetrano’s father discovered his daughter’s body after alerting a New York police officer neighbor that she hadn’t returned from an early evening jog in an area where he had warned her not to run alone in because it’s a magnet for transients. The police had tracked her cell phone to the area where she was found.
“It’s OK, Daddy, I’ll be all right,” were her last words to her father when she left for the run, said The New York Post. He told The Post he had a bad premonition that something was wrong when Karina didn’t immediately return.
See surveillance video of Vetrano’s last moments before she was attacked:
Vetrano attended a Catholic high school in Queens and was a world traveler. The New York Times said Vetrano had a master’s degree in speech pathology.
2. Vetrano Had an Extensive Online Presence, Including a Blog in Which She Mused About Death, Love, Sex & Her Own Funeral
CNN said Vetrano was “known for her selfies” and had thousands of Instagram followers. On Instagram, she posted photos of herself out on the town, in France, and posing in bikinis and running clothes. The site is now privatized; she calls herself a “thrill seeker” and “day dreamer” on it.
She called her blog “a collection of conversations, contradictions, & poetic conflicts.” The blog is a very intimate look into the feelings and thoughts of the 30-year-old jogger; in addition to musings on love, sex, and relationships, she imagined her own funeral and wrote about her horror over the Charles Manson murders.
“Have you ever found solace in the thought of dying?…” Vetrano wrote in one post. “Sometimes when I’m feeling really sad & lonely and misunderstood I wonder, if right now, at this age & this time of my life if by some freak accident I died, what would happen? I think about all of the different people from different times of my life that would attend my funeral.”
In other posts, she made Biblical references to Satan. She ended one post, “DEVIL, why’d you ever cross my path?” She also wrote about talking to strangers while jogging and on the train.
Daily Mail says Vetrano broke up with her boyfriend two days before she was murdered, but he was ruled out as a suspect after providing an alibi.
A friend told The New York Daily News that she had recently struggled with a “rocky relationship”; pain over relationships is something that Vetrano wrote about frequently on her blog.
3. Police Say Vetrano Fought Her Killer & Was Savagely Beaten
Vetrano had a clump of grassy weeds in her hand, perhaps from being dragged, and her teeth were knocked out.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce told The New York Daily News that Vetrano appears to have put up a “ferocious fight.” Investigators found one of her shoes and an ear bud in the weeds, the newspaper said.
The department, which is offering a $10,000 reward in Vetrano’s case, says the murder was unusual and poses a “severe community threat.” A Go Fund Me site created by Howard Beach community members to supplement that reward had raised more than $235,000 as of Aug. 13.
“Howard Beach is a community not known for sitting back while other people work on our behalf,” says the site. “Karina has become the ‘daughter’ of the entire community and we are committed to seeing justice served in her memory.”
NBC New York said Vetrano was beaten severely in the attack and was found face down with her hands balled up. She texted a friend during her jog, but police have not revealed what the message said, according to NBC.
The New York Daily News says police recovered DNA from the scene, but they haven’t made a match yet.
The Daily Mail said, according to sources, that a used condom was found near the attack site, and Vetrano’s teeth were knocked out, her panties pulled down, and her body covered with bruises, scratches and cuts.
4. Vetrano’s Mother Directed Strong Words Toward The Unknown Killer
Shortly after Vetrano’s funeral, her mother, Cathy, gave a press conference in which she lashed out at the killer.
Speaking directly to her daughter’s killer through the TV cameras, an emotional Cathy Vetrano said her daughter was a force to be reckoned with and said the killer would “be reckoning with that force not only for the rest of your pathetic life, but for the rest of eternity as you f—— burn in hell,” People Magazine said.
“It’s the whole entire world against you,” Cathy said, removing her sunglasses to address the unknown killer through the TV cameras.
People Magazine said that Cathy is a cancer survivor who shook as she talked and said, “The whole world knows what a pathetic, puny, weak piece of filth you are. Soon, we’re going to have a face to the d—less piece of garbage that you are.”
5. Vetrano’s Funeral Was Attended by Hundreds, Including Members of The New York Fire Department
At Vetrano’s funeral in Howard Beach, the Queens community where she lived, New York Fire Department firefighters “lined up outside the entrance as Karina’s casket was carried into the church,” said The New York Daily News. Karina’s father is a retired firefighter.
Hundreds attended; Karina’s obituary asks people to donate in her name to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital or North Shore Animal League America.
“She was so full of life, light, beauty and power,” Philip Vetrano said at the funeral, according to The Daily News. “Just like a shooting star burns out at its greatest point, so did Karina.”
Actor Donnie Wahlberg posted a tribute to Vetrano on Twitter, writing, “I’ve met thousands of amazing New Yorkers while filming Blue Bloods, none were as kind as Vetrano.”