Friends remember Karina Vetrano

An attendee to the town hall meeting held at St. Helen’s Church in Howard Beach raises her hand to ask a question. Elected officials and NYPD officers were among the speakers.
Photo by Michael Shain
By Shanna Fuld

Residents of the Howard Beach community say they won’t rest until the killer of Karina Vetrano is found.

Vetrano, 30, of Howard Beach went out for her daily run at 5 p.m. Aug. 2. When she didn’t return, her father called the police and went out looking for her himself. He found her dead in a weeded part of the path. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled to death, police said.

“It was everyone’s daughter who was murdered this week,” Maria Cappellino of Howard Beach said. Her daughter, Mariella Cappellino, was friendly with Vetrano.

“We both went to Vegas together for the first time. I never met someone who loved life more than her. She’s probably been to like 30 countries,” Mariella Cappellino said. “One time I was joking around and I told her to punch me. She could hit,” she said.

It’s with just that kind of ferocity that Vetrano fought her attacker, a spokesman for the NYPD said. The reward for information about the killer had been raised from $2,500 to a $20,000 reward.

Some neighborhood residents have taken to Facebookto express their sorrow that no amount of money will bring Vetrano back. A Facebook page “RIP Karina Vetrano” is full of photos and comments from the community.

John Gotti, 23, grandson of the infamous Howard Beach don, posted a status: “This disaster would’ve never happened before the government locked the good guys up in that neighborhood. They did a better job then the bull—- patrol we have now. The neighborhood was something to fear apparently not anymore and we lost one of our own due to it.”

It was liked by 376 people, most of them Howard Beach residents.

The Gotti scion was arrested last week and charged with being the leader of a ring selling prescription pain killers, the Queens district attorney reported.

White ribbons are up around the neighborhood, raised at the private homes of neighbors who knew her as well as by those who didn’t. The ribbons were tied to lamp posts and trees around St. Helen’s Church, where her funeral was held. Cappellino and her daughter attended the service, where the crowd was so large that it spilled out into the plaza.

The restaurant and rooftop club Vetro on Cross Bay Boulevard, where Vetrano worked as a server, has closed the rooftop, refusing to play music, in Vetrano’s honor.

Cappellino and her daughter went so far as to speak with a medium to see if he could provide any answers or suggestions. He shared with them what he believes happened at the crime scene and said he would first like to speak with the family before making suggestions to the police.

A spokesman for Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) said Ulrich was sensitive about making pronouncements on how people should behave going forward. He said whether at 5 o’clock or 9 o’clock, people should be able to run outdoors without fear.

At a town hall meeting Monday night in St. Helen’s, officials proposed ideas to make the federal parkland where Vetrano lost her life safer for the neighborhood. From cutting weeds to burning them to installing cameras, Howard Beach residents raised their concerns loudly.

“We will bring every city, state and federal agency to this community until we get justice and until we know we made our community safe,” Ulrich vowed.

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