A 31-year-old Worcester man has been arrested in the murder of a Massachusetts jogger who was killed while she went for a run near her mother’s house last year.
Angelo Colon-Ortiz was arrested Friday night and held on a murder charge in the killing of Vanessa Marcotte, a 27-year-old Google employee who was found dead on August 7, 2016, in Princeton, Massachusetts, police and the local district attorney announced.
“We got him,” Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early said to applause at a press conference on April 15 outside the Princeton Police Department, where a crowd of residents, family members and media had gathered to learn about the arrest. “Early this morning, State Police arrested 31-year-old Angelo Colon-Ortiz in connection with the murder of Vanessa Marcotte last August in Princeton, Massachusetts.”
Marcotte, a Leominster native, was living in New York City at the time of her death and was at home visiting her mother. Marcotte is believed to have been strangled, but the official cause and manner of her death have not been released by police, WCVB-TV reports.
“She left her home where she had been visiting family to go for a walk and she never returned,” Early said. “Her body was found later that evening in a wooded area not far from the family home.”
Massachusetts State Police Colonel Rick McKeon told reporters, “Through the last 8-plus months, seasons changed, holidays came and passed, and Ms. Marcotte’s family waited and waited, and hoped. As the months passed, the DA’s office, the Princeton Police and the state troopers never stopped working. No one ever stopped thinking of Ms. Marcotte and how we could solve this case. We never lost faith that this day would come.”
The suspect’s name was initially reported as Angel Cordero Ortiz.
Here’s what you need to know about Angelo Colon-Ortiz, Vanessa Marcotte and the case:
1. Marcotte’s Naked Body Was Found in the Woods With Burns to Her Head, Hands & Feet, Police Say
Vanessa Marcotte was found dead about 8:20 p.m. in a remote “heavily wooded area” about a half-mile from her mother’s home on August 7, 2016, WBZ-TV reports. Her body was found by a Massachusetts State Police K9.
Marcotte was found nude, and had burns to her head, hands and feet, WCVB-TV’s Juli McDonald reports, citing police sources close to the investigation.
Police were investigating whether Marcotte was sexually assaulted, according to reports.
Marcotte had last been seen on Brooks Station Road and police say the investigation suggests she was killed sometime between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on August 7.
“We have a horrible set of facts, a horrible set of circumstance here right now, and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure this investigation is carried out, every groundball is run out, every i is dotted, with regards to this,” Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said at a press conference the day after her death.
Marcotte, who lived in New York City, was home visiting family for a few days, Early said.
“Her family reported her missing, it was unlike her to be gone for an extended period of time,” Early told reporters. “Phone calls were made to the Princeton Police.” The Massachusetts State Police were asked to assist in the investigation by local police and a search was begun, Early said.
Police have not said if the suspect, Angelo Colon-Ortiz, knew Marcotte, or if it was a random attack.
2. Police Found the Suspect’s DNA on Marcotte’s Hands & Say He Likely Was Left With Scratches, Scrapes & Bruises Because She Fought Back
At the time of the August murder, authorities believe the suspect might have had scratches on his body because Marcotte fought back.
“The person would possibly have had scratches on his face, neck, arms, hands, and upper body around the time of the murder,” The Boston Globe reported.
The suspect might also have scrapes and bruises, authorities have said.
District Attorney Joseph Early said after the arrest was made that Marcotte’s efforts helped them find the accused killer.
“It was through her determined fight and her efforts that we obtained the DNA of her killer,” Early said.
“She fought him and they struggled. He had to know she had his DNA,” Patricia Kirby, a forensic psychologist, told MassLive.com.
Police said they believed the suspect was driving an SUV. A possible suspect was spotted driving in the area after the killing. Investigators received hundreds of tips during the investigation.
District Attorney Joseph Early said a DNA match was found on Friday, April 14, and Massachusetts State Police investigators determined Angelo Ortiz was the suspect in the case. He was taken into custody late Friday night at his home in Worcester with the help of local police. He was interviewed and placed under arrest, Early said.
Police previously said they found the suspect’s DNA during the investigation. They released a profile of the killer in February 2017.
Early said at the time they had DNA evidence and were able to develop a profile “of a person of interest in the case.”
He described the person of interest as “a Hispanic man with an athletic build and average height. He had a shaved head or short hair and is about 30 years old.” ABC 7 reported that “the DNA profile shows the person of interest is an athletic, light-skinned male and about 30 years old. He may be of Hispanic or Latino origin.”
Marcotte’s killing drew comparisons to a murder of a jogger in New York City that occurred days before Marcotte’s slaying. Karina Vetrano, 30, was raped and strangled while on a run in Spring Creek Park in Queens in August 2016. DNA led police to a suspect in that case, Chanel Lewis, in February 2017.
3. An Alert State Trooper Spotted an SUV Matching the Description From the Crime Scene, Wrote the License Plate Number on His Hand & Tracked Down Colon-Ortiz
An alert Massachusetts State Police trooper recently spotted a dark-colored SUV matching the description of the one witnesses saw near the crime scene last August and wrote the license plate number down on his hand to follow-up, District Attorney Joseph Early said at a press conference.
Early said the trooper, identified by MassLive.com as Robert Parr, went to the suspect’s apartment and left his card, asking for a return phone call that was never mad
Trooper Parr, who is assigned to the District Attorney’s office, then went back to the apartment the next day and Angelo Colon-Ortiz voluntarily gave a “buccal swab” for his DNA. The match to the DNA obtained from Vanessa Marcotte’s hand to the swab from Colon-Ortiz was confirmed Friday, Early said.
The trooper saw the SUV while driving in Worcester.
“It just goes to the job these people do every day,” Early said. “This is a guy, this information was put out, he was driving in Worcester, he knew we were looking for a dark SUV and a Hispanic male. He saw it, he immediately reached for a piece of paper, didn’t have a piece of paper, he went to his hand, wrote the plate down on the hand.”
The district attorney thanked several agencies for helping lead to the arrest:
I’d like to thank the Massachusetts State Police, including the State Police assigned to the Worcester County District Attorney’s office, led by Detective Lieutenant Alan Hunte, the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab, the Commonwealth Fusion Center, State Police Crime Scene Services, the State Police CERT Team, the State Police Underwater Recovery Unit, the State Police Air Wing and the State Police County K-9 Unit, BFAS, the Worcester Police Department, the Central Massachusetts Police Chiefs, and two special thanks, one to Princeton Police Chief Michele Powers and the Princeton Police Department, for their unrelenting effort in this case to help us find Vanessa’s killer and also to Colonel Rick Mckeon, the Secretary of Public Safety for the resources in this case. As you can tell from the list I’ve read, we had every available resource in this case to find Vanessa’s killer.
Early also thanked the public for the more than 1,300 tips they received, especially those that led them to the dark SUV.
State Police Colonel Rick McKeon thanked the detectives and the district attorney’s office, saying they worked hard and he is “proud” that the arrest has been made.
“There’s still much work to do as we work with the DA’s office to prepare this case for prosecution,” McKeon said. “Our thoughts today remain with the Marcotte family on their loss that can never be restored.”
Early said Marcotte’s family has asked for privacy saying it is “still a long road and they are not ready to speak publicly.”
4. Colon-Ortiz Does Not Have a Criminal Record & Authorities Say It Doesn’t Appear He Is an Undocumented Immigrant
The suspect, Angelo Colon-Ortiz, 31, of Worcester, was arrested Friday night, the Worcester County District Attorney said at a press conference. He was taken into custody without incident.
He is being held at the Massachusetts State Police barracks in Millbury on $10 million bail, according DA Joseph Early.
Colon-Ortiz will be arraigned Tuesday at Leominster District Court on Tuesday. He is facing charges so far of aggravated assault, aggravated battery and assault with intent to rape, Early said. Murder charges have not yet been filed.
Early said the investigation is ongoing and they anticipate there will be a murder charge. The charges filed against Colon-Ortiz, were “the charges we determined were the best to go forward at the time.”
He does not have a criminal record that authorities know of at this time, Early said.
Authorities said Saturday they do not know for sure that he is a U.S. citizen.
“We don’t know that, at this point,” Early said Saturday when asked if Colon-Ortiz is a U.S. citizen. “The information we have, I can’t make a statement in regards to that at this point.”
On Monday, MassLive.com reported that police do not believe Colon-Ortiz violated any immigration laws. An immigration detainer was not requested when he was taken into custody, and it does not appear he is an undocumented immigrant, state police spokesman David Procopio told the newspaper.
Public records indicate Colon-Ortiz is from Puerto Rico, which would make him an American citizen.
Authorities said they believe Colon-Ortiz was working in the Princeton area at the time of the killing. Early said he could not provide any information yet about where Colon-Ortiz was working.
Early said it has been a “roller coaster” since the DNA match was confirmed Friday, which is why many details can’t yet be revealed and the investigation is still open.
“It’s all come together rather quickly,” Early said.
Colon-Ortiz has asked for an attorney. He speaks some English, but an interpreter was used during the interview, Early said.
“We’re very comfortable we’ve got Vanessa Marcotte’s killer,” Early said.
5. Marcotte Graduated From Boston University & Was Working as an Account Executive at Google in New York
Marcotte was originally from Leominster, Massachusetts, which is about 20 minutes north of Princeton, where her mother now lives. District Attorney Joseph Early thanked the family for their help in the investigation.
“The family has been tremendous, to suffer a loss like this, the strength they have shown working with us, our hearts go out to all the family and to Vanessa,” Early said after an arrest was announced Saturday.
Marcotte attended the Bancroft School, a private prep school in Worcester. Marcotte then graduated with honors from Boston University in 2011 with a degree in communications.
“I am a Public Relations major with an extreme interest in all things Internet-savvy. To get a little technical, I am passionate about business strategies like SEO, Analytics and Inbound Marketing (just to name a few) and hope to develop these skills further and make them a focus in my future career,” she wrote on Cheap Grapes, a blog about wine she started while still at student at BU.
Colin Riley, executive director of media relations at BU, told ABC News, “We’re so terribly sad for her family and friends. They’re in our thoughts and prayers.”
Marcotte has worked as an account manager for Google in its healthcare division since January 2015, according to her Linkedin profile. She moved from Boston to New York City to start the new job.
“Vanessa Marcotte was a much loved member of the Google team, working in our New York office for the last year and a half, and known for her ubiquitous smile, passion for volunteer work, and love of Boston sports,” Google said in a statement. “We are deeply shocked and saddened, and our thoughts are with her family and friends.”
Before working for Google, Marcotte was a marketing specialist and senior marketing associate at Vistaprint in Boston.
Vistaprint said in a statement, “We are shocked and heartbroken to hear the news about Vanessa. She was always incredibly friendly and positive, and her smart, creative and innovative approach to work made a huge impact here at Vistaprint. She truly cared about those around her and always made an effort to forge strong relationships. Our thoughts are with her family and friends during this difficult time.”
She has also worked for WordStream and NPWS, Inc.
Marcotte was also a volunteer, working as a tutor for Tutoring Plus of Cambridge.
She was an avid runner, and had taken part in the Falmouth Road Race in 2012 and 2014 as a member of the Dana-Farber Institute’s team to raise money for cancer research, according to the Worcester Telegram.
Her family and friends recently held a run last month to raise money in her memory.
Ashley McNiff, Marcotte’s best friend, told the Boston Globe she plans to run this year’s Boston Marathon in honor of her.
“I think all the time about how Vanessa was doing something she loved when it happened. I want to get to a place where women can live free from the fear of violence. I want to go for a run at 5 in the morning and not worry about anything bad happening to me,” McNiff told the Globe. “That’s my dream, but I know that’s not the reality. But I’m not going to stop running. I’m not going to stop doing the things that I love.”
McNiff and Marcotte cousin recently started the Vanessa Marcotte Foundation , to “advocate for a world where women are safe and free to live boldly,” its website says.
“We strive for this goal by partnering with organizations that deliver educational programs to promote female empowerment, challenge and undermine gender stereotypes, and provide mentorship opportunities,” the foundation’s website explains. We believe these efforts will ultimately help reduce violence against women in our society.”