Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano was training for a planned November marathon in Cuba when she was killed in Spring Creek Park in August.
But in March, Vetrano’s family and friends traveled to Havana to symbolically fulfill her dream of a trip to Cuba. They also left a little of her behind, sprinkling a small amount of her ashes in a quiet park under a brilliant Caribbean sun, her father said.
“That was on Karina’s bucket list,” Philip Vetrano told Newsday last week about the trip to Cuba. “I intend to fulfill all those things on her list.”
Vetrano, 30, was found strangled on Aug. 2 after leaving her Howard Beach home for a training run. After a sometimes frustrating six-month investigation in which police couldn’t match crime scene DNA with any known genetic profiles, NYPD detectives in February charged Chanel R. Lewis, 20, of Brooklyn, with murder.
Lewis is being held without bail and his case is scheduled for a routine court appearance Monday in Queens State Supreme Court, but he is not expected to be present. A source familiar with the investigation said the case is likely now before a grand jury, which could issue a formal indictment soon.
Philip Vetrano, who has vowed to attend every court session in which Lewis shows up, said he won’t be attending Monday’s court session. He is focused on doing other things to keep his daughter’s memory alive. That includes disbursing nearly $300,000 in GoFundMe donations made in Karina’s honor. So far Philip Vetrano’s donations have included a check to Archbishop Molloy High School for a scholarship in Karina’s honor, according to the GoFundMe page.
Vetrano also continues to support a move by state officials to allow familial searching of DNA in certain criminal cases, even though an arrest was made in Karina’s case without its use.
Vetrano said his daughter wanted to join him in the November marathon in Cuba and that he told her she had to get in shape for what was expected to be a grueling race. Karina Vetrano took to training in earnest and was on a run in preparation for the trip when she was killed, her father said. He normally trained with her but couldn’t on the fateful day because he was nursing a back injury.
Though he didn’t participate in the marathon, Philip Vetrano made the trip to Cuba in March, along with six of his daughter’s closest friends. He said they held a ceremony and arrayed a fuchsia-colored garland on the ground in a heart shape and in the middle placed some of Karina’s ashes. They also left behind a small image of a smiling cat face because Karina liked cats.
The Caribbean trip won’t be the last one Philip Vetrano makes from his daughter’s bucket list. She wanted to visit Alaska, South Africa and Thailand as well, he said.