Missing Runner Found Dead in Queens Marshlands Was Strangled, May Have Been Sexually Assaulted: Police - NBC New York

Missing Runner Found Dead in Queens Marshlands Was Strangled, May Have Been Sexually Assaulted: Police

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A woman was strangled to death while jogging in Queens, officials say, and now police are searching for her killer. Michael George reports. (Published Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016)

    What to Know

    • The 30-year-old woman normally ran with her father in the afternoons, but he didn't accompany her this time

    • Her body was found face-down in a marsh several hours after she was reported missing

    • The medical examiner's office ruled she died in a homicide.

    A woman who went missing while running on a New York City trail and whose body was found in a grassy inlet off Jamaica Bay hours later was strangled to death, police said.

    Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said Wednesday 30-year-old Karina Vetrano, whom he described as an active runner, also may have been sexually assaulted. Police said her clothes were in disarray. 

    Vetrano left her Howard Beach home to run near Gateway National Park Tuesday afternoon. She normally ran with her father at that time, but he didn't accompany her Tuesday, Boyce said. When Vetrano didn't return, he called 911 to report her missing and a search was organized. 

    Hours later, Vetrano's body was discovered in a marsh near the Belt Parkway bike path. Boyce said pings from her cellphone led cops to the weedy area near 161st Avenue and 78th Street, where Vetrano was found face-down. The woman's father, a retired firefighter, was among the first to find her body.

    "Father then went into the woods, and then found the body with our detectives after him," Boyce said. "You can imagine his angst at that point."

    The running path is alongside a secluded, overgrown marsh at the edge of Jamaica Bay. It is part of a much longer network of paths ringing the bay that get a lot of use from cyclists and runners. The section where Vetrano's body was found is often bypassed by people using the longer routes.

    A city medical examiner ruled that Vetrano died in a homicide Wednesday afternoon. 

    Boyce said Vetrano had been texting a friend "about normal things" before she vanished from the trail. He said the friend is cooperating with police.

    The young woman worked as a caterer for RV Rooftop at Vetro, which said in an Instagram post it would be closed Wednesday to hold a candlelight vigil in remembrance. She was a world traveler and aspiring writer, and on her blog, she wrote about her life: "It's chaotic and unpredictable, but I do believe that on some days, it's quite beautiful, in all its poetic little tragedies." 

    Neighbors were shocked and saddened when they heard about the discovery. 

    One man said he lives just up the block and has two daughters. 

    "I feel bad for the parents. She went jogging inside the trail and she never returned home," he said. "Something like this, it's so close by. It's really a shock." 

    No arrests have been made in the case, and authorities are reviewing digital evidence from the park. It's not clear if Vetrano's death was the result of a random attack or if the woman was targeted.

    "The whole neighborhood is upside down right now," said family friend Maryellen Dykes. "It's a tragic loss, horrific, it's senseless. I just hope they catch the animal that did this." 

    Anyone with information about Vetrano's death should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.

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