Two weeks after a horrifying crime that shook the entire community, scores of Howard Beach residents came together just before sunset on Tuesday night for a memorial walk that followed in the final footsteps of Karina Vetrano.
The 30-year-old Vetrano went for a run from her 84th Street home in Howard Beach on the late afternoon on Aug. 2 and never returned home. Her body was discovered hours later in a marshy portion of the Gateway National Recreational Area, about a half-mile from where she lived. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled to death, and her killer remains at large.
Led by Vetrano’s parents, Phil and Cathy, the Aug. 16 walk started near 84th Street and followed the path near Gateway where she regularly jogged with her father, who couldn’t run with Karina on Aug. 2 due to an ailing back. The participants then walked to the parking lot of St. Helen’s Church on 157th Avenue and 84th Street for a moment of silence.
Cathy Vetrano thanked the community for their outpouring of support as well as the Police Department for their ongoing efforts to find the person or persons who killed her daughter.
“The people here, every single one of them, have taken us into their arms and hearts and held us together through this. We just want everyone to know that we appreciate every little thing and every prayer,” she said. “I also, on behalf of Phil and I, cannot say enough about our Police Department that we should all support continuously and pray for them continuously, because they are the most amazing people that you will ever, ever know.”
At the conclusion, the participants released white balloons into the air to honor both Karina Vetrano’s memory and the ongoing effort to bring her killer to justice.
Over the last three weeks, Howard Beach residents have come together to offer any support they can to the Vetrano family. They’ve raised in excess of $200,000 in an online campaign to a build a reward for the person who provides information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the murderer. This will supplement the $25,000 reward already being offered by the NYPD, Crime Stoppers and other organizations.
Leads in the case have been difficult for police to attain. DNA evidence recovered from a sneaker and a set of earphones from the crime scene did not match any existing profile in the state DNA databank. The Crime Stoppers hotline received a number of tips found to be non-substantive, police officials noted.
However, at a press conference outside their home Thursday, Phil and Cathy Vetrano indicated that police have “a number of strong leads.” They also made a public appeal to an unidentified woman in the area whom they claimed is a relative of their daughter’s murderer, according to WABC-TV.
“We know there is a family member of the killer that we need for them to come forward, to finalize this very quickly,” Phil Vetrano told WABC-TV. “She is in great distress. We know she wants to make that call. Make that call. The money is there. I guarantee the money. If she waits any longer, someone else is going to claim that fund. The time is now to make that call and get that money.”
Anyone with information about the Karina Vetrano case that can prove helpful is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS, visit their website or send a text message to 274637 (CRIMES), then enter TIP577. All calls and messages are kept confidential.