By Gina Martinez
The Howard Beach community showed up in large numbers Tuesday for a walk in support of slain jogger Karina Vetrano.
Community members met on 165th Avenue and 84th Street and followed parts of the jogging path where Vetrano usually ran and where she was murdered. The walk, led by Vetrano’s family, ended at St. Helen’s church a few blocks away. Hundreds of people turned out and released white balloons in her honor.
The memorial comes two weeks after Vetrano was found dead Aug. 2 after going for a jog alone. Her body was discovered in the marshland area near the vicinity of 161st Avenue and 78th Street when officers responded to reports she had not returned home. Police confirmed she was sexually assaulted and strangled to death. Police have still not been able to find her killer
The murder has shaken up the tight-knit Howard Beach community and Vetrano’s parents have been incredibly vocal about finding who killed their daughter. A gofundme page has been set up by her father and friends to reward anyone providing information on the killer. It has currently raised over $250,000.
Alaina Rivera, came to the walk with her daughters holding a handful of white balloons.
“We came out to support because we have daughters, too, and neighbors come together in times like this to keep the community a little tighter, “she said. “It’s unfortunate that this is what we have to come out for,. It’sia sad reality. Every one’s on edge, no one’s happy I just think they want closure, they want to find out who and why most of all.”
Patrick Delaney, also lives in Howard Beach and came to the walk hoping for justice.
“It’s just like a dark cloud over the community and I didn’t know her personally, but she waited on me a few times at Vetros,” Delaney said. “Everything about her was angelic and she was just a sweet girl and I just feel so bad for her mom and dad,” he said. “I can’t even imagine what they re going through,. It’s just so unfair. I want them to catch this guy and I want him to pay dearly for what he did. I want justice to be served.”
Before the walk Vetrano’s family spoke to reporters. Her father Phil Vetrano even offered the reward money to the killer’s family as long as he turned himself in.
“Turn yourself in,” he said. “I will make sure that reward money goes to the person of your choice. The sister, your mother, your brother. It’s a life-changer. You will be caught, so take advantage of that.”
Vetrano’s mother, Kathy, also warned anyone who may be protecting the killers identity that they’re wasting their time. “You are equally guilty of harboring him if you do so,” she said. Don’t protect him. He’s of no use to anyone. He’s a weak, evil piece of —-.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart