BY JON CRONIN
The parents of slain jogger Karina Vetrano received further solace on Friday after the New York State Commission on Forensic Science announced that the familial-DNA genetic search tool can now be utilized in the state.
Phil and Cathy Vetrano had been advocates of the policy for months; they held a press conference on February 3 during which they endorsed the tool, which searches law-enforcement DNA databases for relatives of a genetic profile that forensics build at the scene of a crime.
The couple initially wanted to use the tool in the search for their daughter’s killer, but Brooklyn’s Chanel Lewis was caught by police just days after their press conference. However, the Vetranos have persisted in their advocacy.
The couple said that they went through six months of dead ends before Lewis was caught and don’t want another family to suffer in the same manner.
“Today is a good day,” said Phil Vetrano at the entrance of Spring Creek, where his daughter was last seen in August 2016. “This is a monumental accomplishment. It’s unheard-of and unprecedented that this could possibly happen in five months. This will be a tremendous tool for law enforcement and for justice. And it’s only because of Karina. Without her driving us forward, this never would have happened. It is a bad day for evil and a bad day for criminals.”
Vetrano added that he won’t stop advocating for the use of the tool until it is utilized nationwide, and hopes it becomes known as “Karina’s Law.”
“Familial DNA will bring these deviants to the justice they deserve,” said Cathy Vetrano, who called the New York State Commission on Forensic Science’s announcement a “Father’s Day gift.”
“There is no closure, just satisfaction,” she added.
Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Park) told the Vetranos that their community owed them a “debt of gratitude” for advocating for the tool.
“You are the definition of a neighbor,” the assemblywoman told the couple.
State Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) has proposed a bill that would make the use of familial DNA legal in the state.
“With the approval of the familial- DNA search policy, New York will become the 11th state to permit the use of this modern crime-fighting technology,” Boyle said. “There is no better time than now to give our law enforcement another tool to solve crimes and protect New Yorkers. I applaud the NYS Commission on Forensic Science and its DNA subcommittee on their diligent work to create and implement a policy that is truly in the best interests of New Yorkers.”
Karina Vetrano was murdered on Aug. 2 in the reeds in Spring Creek Park. She had left the family home in Howard Beach at 5 p.m. on a jog. After an hour, her father became worried and alerted police. A few hours later her body was found face down, seemingly strangled and sexually assaulted.
Lewis has been charged with murder and aggravated sexual abuse, although he has pleaded not guilty in Vetrano’s death. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Reach Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin.