A priest on Saturday eulogizing a Howard Beach jogger who was raped and murdered urged her mourners to leave judgment and vengeance to the Almighty.
Before the altar of St. Helen Church in Queens lay Karina Vetrano’s strangled body in a white-and-gold draped coffin. The 30-year-old St. John’s graduate was found dead Tuesday night after her worried father called police because she failed to return home from a jog through nearby Spring Creek Park. The killer had broken her teeth and beat her black and blue, before leaving her for dead, according to published reports.
“There’s but one animal who will face God and his vengeance — and he knows who he is,” the Rev. Francis Colamaria, the church pastor, told mourners who packed every pew, stood along the walls and listened to loudspeakers beaming the service onto nearby streets. Mourners included members of the FDNY who served with her father when he was a firefighter.
DNA recovered from the rape is being analyzed for a possible match to anyone registered with the government, such as criminals. The NYPD has not said whether its detectives have identified a suspect.
Delivering his homily from the altar, Colamaria said: “We stand in the violent shadow of the cross, in the violent shadow of a tragedy that has fallen upon Howard Beach and this family — a cross that no parent should ever, ever bear.”
Philip Vetrano, the victim’s father, remembered his daughter with whom he’d regularly go jogging.
“My baby girl, Karina, was like a bright, shooting star,” he said, “just as a shooting star burns out at its greatest brilliance, so did Karina.
“Karina lived every day as if it was her last,” he said, adding, “She did more in those short 30 years than some people do in a lifetime. We weren’t just father and daughter. We were like one in the same. She was my life.”
The father said he didn’t jog with her that day because he wasn’t feeling well. He said he had urged her not to go alone and warned her about the path she’d jog alone.
Her mom, Cathy Vetrano, recited a poem she wrote to surprise her daughter in high school, in 2003 — a reading that 13 years later brought tears, two rounds of applause and a standing ovation from mourners.
“Controversial, curious, contrary, crude / considerate, competitive, contagious are you. / With fire and fury she burns and she burnt. / For one to embrace her she yearns and she earns. / And when she does stumble, as all of us do / she feels weary and dreary, sees no day just night. / The gregarious warrior stands up and does fight.”
According to NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce, indications were that Karina Vetrano put up “a ferocious fight right till the end.”
Colamaria, the pastor, said the family, congregation, Queens neighborhood and all New York City were all “racked by grief.” One mourner who stood to read the Bible verse Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, “A Time for Everything,” began to weep when she got to “and a time to die.”
But amid the grief, Colamaria said, Vetrano’s 30 years were an inspiration even in death. He recalled an acrostic she had written and affixed to her bedroom mirror, which the family showed him this week. She had spelled out “self-respect,” with each letter representing an aspiration to guide her life: One “e” stood for “exercise,” the “f” for “focus on fitness.”