The parents of murdered Queens jogger Karina Vetrano have taken an active and emotional role in finding her killer.
Since Karina’s battered body was found in a remote park area where she had gone running near her New York home, her parents, Phil and Cathy Vetrano, have become prominent figures in the news.
New York police have a suspect in custody in the murder of slain jogger Karina Vetrano.
ABC 7 said Vetrano’s parents had spoken out about the case again on February 2 hoping to get more attention to it, but no other details were released about the suspect. The revelation that a suspect was in custody in the high-profile slaying emerged on February 4. It’s not clear whether the person in the sketch is linked to the person now in custody.
On Aug. 17, Phil Vetrano took the unusual step of offering Karina’s killer the more than $250,000 in reward money that has been raised through a Go Fund Me site he started in her memory with members of the Howard Beach community.
“As I mentioned on the news. If YOU THE KILLER turns himself in. I guarantee you anyone you choose will get that money. Your mother, grandmother, sister, ANYONE YOU CHOOSE,” Phil Vetrano wrote on the site, an offer he widely repeated in the news.
He added: “As you can see Karina is Magical and the ONLY REASON, ONLY REASON we have raised what we did is because of her.”
On Aug. 18, Phil told The New York Post that he believes the police are closing in on Karina’s killer. He added, “We know there is a family member of the killer that we need for them to come forward, to finalize this very quickly.”
And on August 29, he implored a mysterious jogger to come forward whom he said used to regularly jog at Howard Beach and hadn’t been seen since. Phil Vetrano said he’s hoping the man saw something. However, The New York Daily News says police have now identified that man and don’t believe he’s involved.
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.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Phil Is a Retired Firefighter Who Found Karina’s Body
Phil Vetrano is a retired New York City firefighter who frequently went running with Karina. On the day she died, Phil passed on going jogging with her because his back was hurting.
“It’s OK, Daddy, I’ll be all right,” Karina said to her father when she left for the run, according to The New York Post. Phil told The Post he had a bad premonition that something was wrong when Karina didn’t immediately return.
When Karina didn’t come back after the 5 p.m. jog, he went to a neighbor who works with the New York Police Department for help. Together, Phil and police found Karina’s body. She had been brutally beaten; her teeth were knocked out, she may have been sexually assaulted, and she had clumps of weeds in her hand as if she had been dragged.
Phil is a former firefighter who retired on disability; he had warned Karina not to jog in the remote park area alone, said The New York Post.
“Vetrano was face down with her teeth broken, scrapes on her legs and her sports bra and shorts pulled down,” said CBS. Karina, who was very athletic and jogged several miles a day, fought back ferociously against the killer, police believe.
2. Cathy Gave an Emotional Press Conference in Which She Spoke Directly to The Killer & Phil Has Spoken Out About His Daughter’s Death
Shortly after Karina’s murder, Cathy Vetrano, Karina’s mother, gave an emotional statement in which she spoke directly to the killer, saying that her daughter was a force to be reckoned with and the killer would go to hell.
She 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 promised, removing her sunglasses to address the unknown killer through the TV cameras.
“Don’t protect him. He’s of no use to anyone. He’s a weak, evil piece of s—,” she said, urging anyone with information to out the killer’s identity. Police have said little about the killer, and they are investigating whether the attack was random and possibly related to transients who hang out in the park.
Phil and Cathy Vetrano have spoken publicly on several occasions in such emotional terms about their daughter and her death. Phil told Pix 11: “Peace to me, and closure to me, is going to come the day I see Karina. That’s when peace will come. Up until that point, you talk about anger and rage.”
When the anchor asked, “Is forgiveness in that equation eventually?” Cathy said, “No.”
“That’s up to the Lord to forgive,” said Phil. “We’re angry. Of course we’re enraged. But it has to be controlled at this point time. It has to be controlled as this point in time. We have a mission and that is to find this perpetrator.”
Cathy is a cancer survivor.
3. The Vetranos Are Raising Money to Supplement The Reward For Karina’s Killer & Participated in a Memorial Walk in Her Honor
Members of the Howard Beach community where the Vetranos live joined together to create the Go Fund Me site to raise funds to supplement the reward in Karina’s death.
“Howard Beach is a community not known for sitting back while other people work on our behalf. Karina has become the daughter of the entire community and we are committed to seeing justice served in her memory,” says the site.
Phil posts on the site, and it is this money that he has promised the killer if the killer confesses. The site says that if no reward is given out, “the monies will be used for the charity or charities of the board’s choice with the approval of the Vetranos. These charities will be in Karina’s name and of which she would want. I have already mentioned St Judes Children hospital, North Shore animal league, ASPCA and annual runs and scholorships.”
The site had raised over $250,000 as of Aug. 17. Phil wrote on Facebook, “WE have surpassed $250.000. That’s incredible, that’s amazing. From the bottom of my heart I thank you all and assure you every penny will go to charities that help people, children and of coarse the animals she loved so much. No one and I mean no one will ever receive a penny for anything else.”
Two weeks after Karina was found murdered, her parents participated in a memorial walk through the same marshy area where she died. Her mother led the march and her father released balloons. He said at the march that the community’s support has been a life preserver for the family, said CBS New York.
“The community has come together all through this — not just tonight, from the minute she was missing, the community has been there and only gotten stronger and stronger and stronger,” Phil said to CBS local. “This is a showing for the world to see how strong this community is.”
4. Karina Was a Vivacious Blogger Who Wrote About Life, Relationships & Death & She Was a Waitress at a Wine Bar
In addition to working at a restaurant and wine bar, Karina had a prolific online presence. She posted numerous photos of herself in running clothes, cocktail dresses, and bikinis on Instagram and Twitter, and she had a blog on which she wrote about her innermost thoughts.
Karina’s blog even discusses her own funeral in vivid detail. “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 on the blog, she referenced Satan and the Bible. She ended one post, “DEVIL, why’d you ever cross my path?” She also wrote about talking to strangers while she was jogging and on the train.
Karina also had a masters degree and attended a Catholic high school in Queens. She frequently posted pictures on Instagram of her travels to France and other exotic locales. Friends described her as vivacious.
5. The New York Police Department Has DNA From The Crime Scene But Doesn’t Have a Match to The Killer
Police have recovered a DNA sample from the scene of Karina’s murder. However, they do not have a match. On Aug. 17, NBC said police do not have any solid leads in the case – at least not any they have made public.
According to The New York Daily News, “Forensic investigators successfully recovered DNA from another person on Vetrano’s body — but they haven’t been able to match it to anyone so far.”
The killer left the imprint of his hand on Karina’s neck, The New York Post said.
Karina died Aug. 2. A few days later, Vanessa Marcotte, a Google employee from New York, was murdered while jogging near her mother’s house in Princeton, Massachusetts. Police have also recovered DNA in that case.
Phil Vetrano has said that he believes the death of his daughter and Marcotte are unrelated.