By Patrick Donachie
Concerned community residents turned out in the hundreds at St. Helen’s Catholic Church in Howard Beach Monday evening for a town hall meeting about the ongoing investigation into the murder of Karina Vetrano, who was killed during a jog through a secluded area in Spring Creek Park.
The pews were filled, and people lined the walls and packed the back. Outside, the meeting was pumped through loudspeakers to those who could not fit inside the church, which has a capacity of 458.
NYPD brass on hand, including incoming Chief of Department Carlos Gomez and Deputy Inspector Michael Kemper, who is also the commanding officer of the Queens South Detective Bureau, ensured residents that the investigation was proceeding, although they hesitated to go into specifics.
“I’ve never seen the level of communication between police and community that I’ve seen in the past week and I’m being sincere,” Kemper said. “The best in the world are on this case.”
Vetrano was found in the marsh area on the evening of Aug. 2 after she did not return from her afternoon jog. Her death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner, who determined she was strangled to death.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz informed attendees that her office had allocated funding for NYPD cameras on the exterior of the park to monitor people going into the weeded area, or the Baja as it is known to some residents, where Vetrano was murdered.
“If you enter and exit there, you’re going to be filmed,” Katz said, and expressed remorse that the cameras were not there prior to Vetrano’s death. Some residents expressed concern that cameras would not be able to see into the high weeds, and others suggested doing away with the weeded area entirely, which Father Francis Colamaria pushed against. Colamaria also presided over the funeral services for Vetrano in the church Saturday.
“It’s a park. Karina loved that park. Her parents told me that,” he said. “We need to make it safe.”
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona