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Grief-Stricken Community Says Goodbye To Jogger Killed In Queens

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A grief-stricken community said its final goodbye Saturday to a woman who was killed while jogging in Queens.

Mourners filled St. Helen Church, just blocks from where 30-year-old Karina Vetrano was found dead in Howard Beach.

Her father, Phillip, described his daughter as "my baby girl," calling her a "bright, shining star," 1010 WINS' Roger Stern reported.

Her mother, Cathy, told mourners of her daughter's love of rainbows and the Wizard of Oz. She quoted from a letter she had written to her daughter for a high school retreat that read in part, "Karina my baby, you shine and glow."

"I'll remember her as the fun-loving, caring person she was and not the way she went," said friend Anna Psyllakis.

"Meeting her was beautiful," Vetrano's co-worker, Altagracia Harney, said. "She was a beautiful person. Always happy, always in a good mood."

Others attended the funeral even though they didn't know Vetrano.

"To express my support for the family and to express my concern for the tragedy of the whole thing," resident Louis Bacotti said.

Four days after her murder and with a killer still on the loose, the monstrous criminal undertone to the service did not go unspoken, CBS2's Steve Langford reported.

"As for animals, there is but one animal who will face God's judgement and God's vengeance and he knows who he is," said Father Francis Colamaria.

Beyond those packed inside the church for the funeral, dozens of mourners stood on surrounding blocks to pay their respects from afar, WCBS 880's Stephanie Colombini reported.

Frank Ottomanelli, who was a business associate of Vetrano's father, said her death has been hard on the whole community.

"I think all of Howard Beach is going through a difficult time," he said. "We're a tight community and we take care of one another."

As Vetrano's casket was carried to the hearse, one pall bearer rubbed his hand on the coffin as another appeared inconsolable.

Only a few blocks away at 161st Avenue and 79th Street, police continue to devote major resources to solving the murder of a young woman who just wanted to go for a run near her home late Tuesday afternoon.

Vetrano's father became concerned and contacted police when she didn't answer his calls after she left for a jog in the Spring Creek federal park land near the Belt Parkway.

Police said she usually went running with her father, but this time, an injury kept him home.

He helped police search Tuesday night and pings from her cell phone led them to a marshy area about 15 feet away from the running path. Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said her father went into the woods and found her body.

Police said Vetrano was strangled and possibly sexually assaulted. She was face down with her teeth broken, scrapes on her legs and her sports bra and shorts pulled down, sources said.

Police sources also said one of her hands was clutching grass, indicating she may have been dragged. Police said she was found 15 feet off the path.

"This woman put up a ferocious fight right to the end," Boyce said Thursday.

CBS2 has learned a missing sneaker belonging to Vetrano was found about 100 feet from her body. Her missing headphones were also found.

According to police, the clues point to a less sophisticated killer, one who did not take a trophy from the scene as murderers often do.

Police have also found a DNA sample that may match the killer and are searching through records of every summons given in the park in the last six months, CBS2s Magdalena Doris reported.

But police said they are desperate for tips from the public. They said they've only received three calls to their tip line, none of which have provided much information.

"We believe there's a severe community threat, as you know," Boyce said. "Right now, we think it's random, so we don't think it's anybody in her life that's created this."

Neighbors are doing their part to make sure her killer is brought to justice. Flyers offering a reward of $10,000 line the streets accompanied by white ribbons.

"She was a beautiful girl," said Doris Brown of Howard Beach. "You see them grow up, and all of a sudden – such a terrible thing. I just cry. It makes me cry all the time."

Vetrano worked at a local catering hall and as a speech pathologist, earning a master's degree from Saint John's University last May. Friends said she was widely traveled and well-educated.

Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782), visit or text tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

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