Karina Vetrano had just celebrated her 30th birthday with a tropical vacation in St. Tropez and was back home in Howard Beach, Queens, on her usual, early evening run.
The sun was still high in the sky as she made her way into a section of path with tall weeds in a marshy area — a section her father, who normally came with her but hadn't on that day due to a back injury, always warned her not to enter alone.
A retired firefighter who worked on 9/11, her father was protective of her. The trouble with the marsh was, once you entered it, no one could see you from the road.
But for whatever reason, she didn't heed his warning that day. He would never see her alive again.
After she didn't return and wasn't returning his frantic calls, Vetrano's worried father reached out to authorities for help.
When police descended upon the neighborhood, a local girl who knew Vetrano collapsed in tears. Everyone knew Vetrano and knew about her and her father's nightly jogging routine.
A police search in the area ensued, Vetrano's panicked father joining them.
Then, on that path with the tall weeds, Mr. Vetrano found his daughter.
A neighbor, who only identified himself as “John,” told the New York Post that the weeded area was considered dangerous, and that “bums and hobos” often lurked, hidden in the tall grass:
“She had a routine jog. He [Vetrano's father] asked her, 'Don’t go in there.' They found her phone over here [on the path] . . . If these weeds weren’t this high, we would have seen her.....all girls know not to walk along these weeds.”
NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce held a press conference on Wednesday and told reporters about the harrowing discovery of Vetrano's body:
“At 9 o’clock, there was a ping off her cellphone, the father walked us through the area and the father found the body face down. There’s evidence of strangulation.”
Boyce also told reporters that Vetrano had been texting with a friend during the jog, but at some point had stopped responding. After Vetrano's father was unable to reach her either, he called his neighbor, an NYPD police chief, who then called 911.
But what NYPD chief spokesman Stephen Davis said at the press conference added an even more horrific angle to the story:
“The [medical examiner] needs to confirm that, but there were marks on the body that were consistent with sexual assault.”
Vetrano had also been found with her pants pulled down around her knees.
Only last week, Vetrano posted an Instagram photo showing her celebrating her friend Alicia’s wedding. She writes on the post:
“Alicia, I cherish you & *us* more than words can say. From 14 year olds to entering our 30s 3 days apart, to your marriage, I will always be here for you & I love you.”
Another recent Instagram post shows Vetrano and her father on his 60th birthday, Vetrano saying he's her “hero” and adding:
“I’m so blessed to have a father I can call my best friend.”
Currently, police are scouring numerous surveillance videos for clues, but have no leads.