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Photo: Josef Pinlac/QNS, with inset via Instagram
Photo: Josef Pinlac/QNS, with inset via Instagram
Candles are lit in memory of Karina Vetrano (inset), who was sexually assaulted and murdered in Howard Beach on Tuesday.

Howard Beach residents continue to grapple with the shocking murder and sexual assault of a 30-year-old woman who was reported missing and later found dead in a marshy park near her home on Tuesday.

Some 200 residents of the neighborhood came to the parking lot of Vetro’s restaurant Wednesday night to mourn the loss of Karina Vetrano, who was found fatally strangled at a nearby park the night before. Vetrano, who graduated with a master’s degree from St. John’s University last year, worked at Vetro’s as a caterer and lived on 84th Street.

 

Vetrano was last seen alive at 5 p.m. on August 2 when she went out for a run. According to the New York Daily News, she usually ran with her father, but he opted not to join her that day due to his ailing back. When she did not return home after 90 minutes and didn’t pick up her phone, he contacted police, and the 106th Precinct commenced a search.

Her father, a retired firefighter, discovered her body while searching with police a marshy area of the Gateway National Recreational Area in the vicinity of 161st Avenue and 78th Street at about 11 p.m. Tuesday. An autopsy concluded that Karina Vetrano was strangled to death, and the case was ruled a homicide.

NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said on Wednesday morning that there was evidence that Vetrano had been sexually assaulted prior to the murder. On Thursday, DNAinfo reported, Boyce added that forensic evidence had been recovered from the crime scene, but the NYPD has received just a handful of tips from the public.

Identifying suspects or persons of interest in the case hasn’t been easy, as the area where Vetrano was found is hidden behind tall weeds and is poorly lit at night.

Joann Ariola, president of the Howard Beach-Lindenwood Civic Association, told QNS on Thursday that her organization has previously requested that the National Park Service (NPS) to trim the weeds and increase lighting in the area around the bike and running path through the park.

The group is now supporting a petition circulated among Howard Beach residents following Vetrano’s murder calling on the NPS to install better lighting and take other steps to enhance security.

“There are a lot of people hurting in our community,” Ariola said regarding the murder, which has devastated to many neighbors who knew Vetrano personally.

The Howard Beach-Lindenwood Civic Association plans to hold an emergency meeting later this month to focus on problems near the park and seek resolutions to them, Ariola added. Though a date has yet to be determined, the group will not meet until after Vetrano is laid to rest.

Meanwhile, the NYPD is now offering a $10,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of Vetrano’s killer. The 106th Precinct Detective Squad is conducting the investigation, with Detective Christian Quezada assigned to the case.

Anyone with information regarding the murder is asked to call Detective Quezada at 718-845-2261 or Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS. Information may also be sent to Crime Stoppers online at its website or via text message to 274637 (CRIMES), then enter TIP577. All calls and messages are kept confidential.

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