Thirty-year-old Karina Vetrano had embarked on her usual evening run on the evening of August 2, 2016, opting for the same path she took on a regular basis. However, due to what prosecutors are now calling a “crime of opportunity,” she would never return home.
When Karina still hadn’t returned home by 6 p.m. that evening, her father, Phil Vetrano, began to worry. Phil usually ran the path through Spring Creek Park in Howard Beach alongside his daughter but had stayed home on that particular evening due to back pain. As the minutes ticked by, the father had a sinking feeling that something had happened to his daughter.
“I continued to watch the news and eat my dinner, [but] as every moment went by, that feeling got stronger and stronger until it was 6:27. I called her, 6:28, I called her, 6:30, I called her and she didn’t answer. So I yelled. I screamed,” Phil Vetrano said.
He set out to look for her, calling her name repeatedly. When his search proved unsuccessful, he called a police chief, who happened to be a friend of his. The officer sent out a patrol car to assist and organized a search party.
Details about jogger Karina Vetrano’s final moments have been revealed as she was choked to death half-naked in marshland. https://t.co/yGlr6oNPGQ— news.com.au (@newscomauHQ) November 7, 2018
While many were searching the area for the missing jogger, it was her father that would eventually find her body. According to NBC New York, Karina’s body was laying in a secluded area of the park surrounded by weeds. Her father recounted the terrible moment he realized his daughter was dead.
“I let out this sound that I — that I never made before or since. It was — I don’t know. It was like a wail,” he said.
“And then I screamed, ‘My baby, my baby.'”
It was later discovered that Karina had unintentionally crossed paths with now 22-year-old Chanel Lewis, who had been out in the park that night because he was angry over a neighbor’s loud music. He was trying to cool off when he saw Karina running by and decided to attack her. Lewis was arrested six months following Karina’s death. Police now say that she was allegedly punched, violently sexually assaulted, and strangled to death.
Queens Assistant District Attorney Brad Leventhal is calling Karina’s death a crime of random violence.
“[Vetrano’s] dead because she was unlucky enough, misfortunate enough to be in a secluded location outside of the eyes and ears of anyone but him,” he said, before pointing a finger at Lewis in court.
Lewis later admitted to strangling Vetrano but did not admit to the sexual assault. If he is found guilty of her death, he will spend life in prison.