NEW YORK – A woman was killed on an early evening run in a secluded section of a marshland park after her father warned her it might not be safe to go there without him, police said Wednesday.
An autopsy found that Katrina Vetrano died from strangulation after her body was discovered late Tuesday night in Queens. Her clothes were in disarray, indicating a possible sexual assault, said police, who were still searching Wednesday for her assailant.
Vetrano, 30, left for her her daily run at about 5 p.m. on a trail in Spring Creek Park, part of a recreation area that’s adjacent to her home in the Howard Beach neighborhood, police said. Normally, the victim ran with her father, but he stayed home because of a bad back, they said.
The father, retired firefighter Philip Vetrano, “asked her not to run this path, not without him,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said Tuesday at a briefing near the scene of the crime. “If you’re a runner you understand that you run every night as part of your routine, so she went, and said she’d be all right.”
Vetrano didn’t return on time and didn’t answer her father’s phone calls, so he contacted a police commander neighbor, who called 911. After police used cellphone signals to narrow the search area, her father spotted her body face down in the tall grass and brush along an unpaved emergency access road about 15 feet off the running trail, police said.
Vetrano was last heard from by a friend with whom she texted, police said. There was also security video of her running along the edge of the park at about 5:45 p.m.
Police were examining other video to try to identify a suspect, Boyce said.
“There’s a lot of forensic evidence as well as digital evidence in the area,” he said.
The running trail Vetrano used is connected to a much longer network of paths ringing Jamaica Bay that’s popular with cyclists and runners. However, people often bypass the section where her body was found because it’s more overgrown and desolate.