HOWARD BEACH, Queens – The parents of Karina Vetrano, killed while on a jog through a marshy area in Queens, said on Thursday it’s “just a matter of days” before an arrest is made in the slaying of their daughter, but high-ranking police sources are refuting the family’s claim and no NYPD officials were present at the afternoon news conference.
From outside their home in Howard Beach, Cathie and Phil Vetrano urged the killer and their relatives to come forward.
“Prove me wrong in your last final act that you’re not a coward,” Cathie Vetrano said, echoing the sentiment from her first and highly emotional public appearance last week in which she spoke directly to the killer, calling the person a “pathetic, puny, weak piece of filth.”
The Vetranos said investigators are close to a break in the case, but two high-ranking sources with the city’s police department refuted that claim to PIX11 News.
During a recent community meeting, a high-ranking police official told residents asking questions about the safety of their neighborhood that he understood their concerns but “refused to give up what he had” in case the killer was watching footage of that meeting or following media reports.
Still, the Vetranos were specific Thursday, mentioning a sister who may know vital information about the killer's whereabouts and urging her to give police whatever knowledge she has.
If the killer surrenders, "we might go easier on you," Phil Vetrano said.
The 30-year-old went missing Aug. 2 after she went on a solo run about 5 p.m., police said.
Hours later, her father, a retired FDNY official, set out with a search party and, along with police, ultimately discovered his daughter's body, 15 feet off the jogging path. A used condom was found nearby and one of her shoes was missing, a police source said.
There's no evidence she knew her attacker, officials said.
Vetrano was beaten "quite severely," suggesting she put up a "ferocious fight," the chief of detectives said in an Aug. 4 news conference. The medical examiner determined strangulation to be the cause of death.
Her death shook the tight-knit community of Howard Beach. Scores of supporters participated in a walk Wednesday to honor the young woman who described herself as a “day dreamer” and a “thrill seeker.”
In the days after Vetrano’s death, NYPD pleaded for the public to come forward with tips as a paltry amount of “generic” information had come in by that time. Phil Vetrano on Thursday said dozens more tips have been gathered since then.
As the investigation continues, the reward – both public and private – continues to grow for information to leads to an arrest in the case.
Police have posted a combined $20,000 reward. More than $250,000 had been raised as of 2:45 p.m. Thursday for a private reward fund, according to the family’s GoFundMe page.
"The money is there. I guarantee the money," Phil Vetrano said Thursday, saying if the killer confesses to the crime, their family will get the reward money.
Clarification: Mother Cathie Vetrano’s name was initially spelled incorrectly, due to an error on a GoFundMe page. It has since been fixed.