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Howard Beach jogger slaying reward doubled, NYPD says

Karina Vetrano was found dead in the marshes

Karina Vetrano was found dead in the marshes near 161st Avenue and 78th Street in Howard Beach, Queens on Aug. 2, 2016. Credit: Instagram

A week after the death of Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano, reality has set in for police that the case is proving difficult to solve, despite a great deal of assistance from the community.

“It is a tough case, we have no leads,” said a law enforcement source who didn’t want to be named.

The NYPD said the award in the case has been raised to $20,000 from $10,000.

During a public forum Monday night at St. Helen Roman Catholic Church, NYPD officials said the case was now the focus of a task force. Detectives have interviewed hundreds of people, collected dozens of surveillance videos and have run down about 30 Crime Stopper tips in the effort to find the killer of Vetrano, 30, as she ran in Spring Creek Park near her home in the Queens neighborhood Aug. 2.

“This case is being fully investigated by the best detectives in the world, and I mean it, the best in the world on this case,” Deputy Chief Michael Kemper, commander of Queens South detectives, told about 1,000 who gathered Monday night inside and outside of the church, where Vetrano’s funeral was held last week.

Among the latest tips being run down by investigators is a report by a Howard Beach man who said he saw two agitated young men running from the park as he biked through the area around the time of killing, the source and neighborhood residents said.

The man has been interviewed and his information is being checked out, although it was unclear if the incident happened on the date of Vetrano’s death, said the source, adding that the man had not been able to identify anyone in photographs he was shown.

Kemper said at the forum Vetrano left her home about 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 2 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. Vetrano is believed to have run west on a path through the park, where she was confronted by an “unknown person or persons,” said Kemper.

After Vetrano didn’t return home and wasn’t answering her phone, her father, Phillip Vetrano, called a friend in the NYPD and the 106th Precinct was notified, Kemper said. After police technical experts were able to ping the young woman’s phone about 9 p.m., police and Phillip Vetrano focused their search and found Karina’s body about 10:40 p.m., some 20 feet south of the path, Kemper said.

Police have collected good DNA evidence from the crime scene and have been running the profile through law enforcement databases, but as of Tuesday had not yet found a match with any other person in the databases, another law enforcement source said.

Kemper told those at the church DNA profiles are run through various city, state and national databases, with the possibility that Interpol, the international policing agency, also can be consulted.

One resident who identified herself at the forum only as Kari, asked Kemper how many suspects were being considered by police.

“I don’t have a definite answer,” Kemper responded. “I have theories . . . there is no reason based on the evidence we have to suggest there was more than one person.”

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