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NYPD to release sketch of man who may have answers in jogger case

Karina Vetrano, 30, of Howard Beach, Queens, was

Karina Vetrano, 30, of Howard Beach, Queens, was found dead in the marshes near 161st Avenue and 78th Street, about three blocks from her home, on the night of Aug. 2, 2016. Credit: Facebook

Police are expected to release as early as Thursday a sketch of a man seen leaving Spring Creek Park in Howard Beach, Queens, around the time jogger Karina Vetrano was killed earlier this month, a high-ranking law enforcement official said.

The man in the sketch is not a suspect in the Aug. 2 homicide and is being sought because he may be able to provide information about what he may have seen in the park around the time police think Vetrano was killed, the official stressed.

Police were able to compile the sketch based on the recollections of a worker at the north end of the park who said he was startled by the appearance of the unknown man as he left the park along a bike and jogging trail near the Belt Parkway, the official said.

“A worker in the area said he spotted a guy,” the official said. The worker was surprised to see the man and for a moment thought he was going to be mugged, the official said.

After a number of attempts at rendering the sketch, police think they now have what was described as a generic portrayal of the person they would like to talk with about what he may have seen.

Meanwhile, a so-called mystery jogger seen recently in Howard Beach was ruled out as a possible subject in the investigation of the killing of Karina Vetrano after the person voluntarily talked with police Monday night, a top NYPD official said Tuesday.

The 48-year-old man walked into the 106th Precinct late Monday after Philip Vetrano, the slain woman’s father, said on a radio program that both he and police wanted to talk with the man.

Police have said she left her home about 5:30 p.m. that day for her usual run and is believed to have entered the park at 161st Avenue and 81st Street, about three blocks from her home on 84th Street. She is believed to have run west on a path through the park, where she was confronted by an “unknown person or persons,” police have said.

Officials said she was strangled, battered and sexually abused.

On Monday night, Philip Vetrano questioned the whereabouts of the male jogger, saying in a radio interview with Curtis Sliwa on WABC radio that the man had not been seen since Karina was killed. The father said the man used to run in the neighborhood near Spring Creek Park.

NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said the jogger went to the precinct after hearing the broadcast and was quickly discounted as a subject in the probe. The jogger had hurt his knee and has had to refrain from running in recent weeks, Boyce said.

“He heard it , that person came forward — is not a subject at all,” Boyce said.

Philip Vetrano said he was pleased the man had surfaced.

“That is great,” he said. “I just wanted to talk to him. I never said he was a suspect.”

Boyce said detectives still think Vetrano died at the hands of a chance encounter with a stranger in the densely weeded park.

“We don’t think this has anything to do with Karina’s background at all,” Boyce said. “We still maintain it was a random attack. There is nothing that suggests anybody in her past would do this to her.”

The best evidence so far, Boyce said, has been DNA taken from Karina Vetrano’s body and cellphone. However, Boyce said the DNA from Karina’s body has not matched any profiles found in state or national databases. He said that the DNA also has not matched any profiles kept in smaller databases of DNA found at robberies, burglaries and other crimes for which there are no identified suspects.

Police have focused part of their search on the bike and jogging path at the north end of the park along the Belt Parkway. The path runs west to Brooklyn and east to South Ozone Park. However, there is a lack of video coverage in part of that area, which includes a shopping mall on Erskine Street, Boyce said.

“We have gone through that with a fine-tooth comb as well — anybody arrested for shoplifting, panhandling — whatever the case may be, we are doing a deep dive on that,” Boyce said of the mall area.

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