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Family of slain jogger Karina Vetrano pushes for familial DNA searching

The family of Karina Vetrano wants New York

The family of Karina Vetrano wants New York State to allow the use of familial DNA searching in the search for her killer. Credit: Facebook

The recent solving of a more than 40-year-old cold case murder in Los Angeles through an emerging type of DNA search has buoyed the family and friends of slain Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano in their push to get New York State to use similar procedures in the search for her killer.

On Tuesday, officials in Los Angeles announced that familial searching of DNA evidence confirmed the identity of the killer of Karen Klass, 32, a mother, and the ex-wife of singer Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers duo. Klass was sexually assaulted in her home and died on Feb. 4, 1976, from her injuries.

California officials said the case went cold for decades, but that retesting of the killer’s DNA and checking it through recently developed familial searching techniques led them to conclude the killer was Kenneth Eugene Troyer, a sexual predator who died over two decades ago. Troyer escaped from prison in January 1982 and was killed in a shootout with police six weeks later.

“I’m grateful this came out when it did,” Vetrano’s father, Philip, said Tuesday of the Klass case. “It shows that it works.”

Familial searching is used in 10 states, including California and Colorado. Known by the abbreviation “FS,” familial searching seeks to analyze crime scene DNA not matched to genetic profiles already in state and local databases. It is a two-step process involving probability rankings and analysis of the Y chromosome to identify people in the state DNA database who may be relatives of the unknown suspect.

Vetrano, whose 30-year-old daughter was strangled and sexually assaulted on Aug. 2 as she jogged in a park near her home, is pushing state officials in New York to authorize the familial searching procedure. NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown support the idea.

Critics say the method raises issues of privacy. But California officials said they have strict protocols in place to protect the identities of innocent family members who may be related to the suspect.

Vetrano will be holding a news conference Thursday in Howard Beach along with politicians such as state Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) and Assemb. Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Beach) to promote the familial searching concept. Boyle has introduced a bill in the Senate to allow the procedure.

Vetrano said he has more than 150,000 signatures on a petition in support of familial searching. He expects to draw a crowd of hundreds at the news conference, slated for 4 p.m. at 83rd Street and 164th Avenue near his home in Howard Beach.

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