The savage assailant who murdered a Queens jogger knocked out her tooth as she desperately tried to fight him off in a remote patch of tall weeds near her home, law enforcement sources said Thursday.
“This woman put up a ferocious fight, right to the end. She was beaten quite severely, which would suggest she put up a big fight,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said of Karina Vetrano, 30.
The avid runner and fitness buff was working out solo Tuesday night when she was attacked and dragged about 15 feet off a path in Spring Creek Park near her home in Howard Beach, police said.
Cops as yet do not have any suspects in the rape-murder.
“She was really beat up,” a source said of Vetrano, whose father, Philip, found her body during a search with NYPD cops about four hours after she went missing.
She had “scratches and marks all over her body, which was in bad shape,” the source said.
“While [the killer] was strangling her, he pressed his hands so hard into her neck that later on when they found the body, police could see the outline of his hand in her neck,” said another source.
No arrests have been made, but police are interviewing several known sex offenders who live in the area as well as vagrants who live in the park.
Police interviewed Vetrano’s ex-boyfriend Wednesday and ruled him out as a suspect, NYPD officials said.
“He thought their relationship was more than it was but she broke it off with him,” a source said.
Investigators believe the killer was a stranger to her, sources said.
Cops late Wednesday discovered a used condom and wrapper discarded not far from the quiet path where Vetrano’s body was found, but it was unclear if it was linked to the attack, sources said.
Police on Thursday were combing through the weeds also looking for Vetrano’s missing shoe, which apparently came off as she was being dragged.
“We are still in the process of collecting evidence right now,” Boyce said Thursday.
“We plan to chop down just about every weed at that location until we are satisfied that we got all the evidence.”
A tractor with an industrial mower was brought to the scene of the crime Thursday as well as dozens of police officers from various units.
Boyce added that “a lot” of forensic evidence has been acquired so far, but only three vague tips had come in via the Crimestoppers hot line.
“It was still daylight [when the attack took place], so we are hoping somebody saw something going into the park,” he said. “Thus far, we don’t have a lot of leads on this right now.”
Police did a DNA swab on Vetrano’s cellphone found off the dirt path and are awaiting the results, Boyce said. Swabs underneath the victim’s fingernails were also taken for testing.
On her cellphone, police found a missed call from her worried dad. Also, during her run Vetrano had exchanged text messages with a friend, Boyce added.
To beef up manpower in the investigation, the NYPD has set up a task force with two detectives from each of the eight squads in Queens South, sources said. The FBI is also involved in the investigation, but only to lend equipment that the NYPD does not have, officials said.
tion of Vetrano’s killer.
Vetrano’s devastated dad returned to the scene Thursday morning.
The 60-year-old former firefighter pulled up in his white Mercedes SUV and was spotted speaking with officers.
Karina regularly ran along the path in the park with her dad, but he had stayed home Tuesday night to nurse a back injury.
He had told her not to go near the area, but she assured him she would be fine, sources said.
When his daughter did not return home by 7 p.m., about two hours after she had gone out, Philip called a police-chief neighbor, who contacted cops.
Investigators tracked her cellphone to a marshy area in the park, a federal property.
The tall weeds there have long been a security issue in the community.
“The weeds have been a problem for as long as anybody can remember here,” said City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Queens).
The large swath of land is only patrolled from the perimeter by two park officers sporadically over 24-hour periods, a federal official said.
The two officers also patrol the Brooklyn and Queens portions of Gateway National Park, a vast network including Spring Creek Park.
“That’s a challenge for us. That’s something that we’ve discussed with the community in the past and it’s not a secret,” said US Park Police district manager Capt. Raymond Closs.