The Queens jogger who was found apparently strangled to death in a marshy area near Howard Beach was sexually assaulted, police said Wednesday.
The body of Karina Vetrano – who had recently celebrated her 30th birthday in Saint Tropez, France – was discovered Tuesday night by her father during a police search, with her running tights pulled halfway down, in the weeds off 165th Avenue and 78th Street last night, sources said.
“At 9 o’clock, there was a ping off her cell phone the father walked us through the area and the father found the body face down. There’s evidence of strangulation,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce, told reporters at a Wednesday press conference.
Boyce said that Vetrano’s father urged her not to go jogging without him in that area. Her dad had been knocked out of commission due to a recent back injury.
While she was running, the St. John’s University graduate was texting with a friend, but “at some point that stopped,” Boyce said.
Then her father repeatedly called her cell phone, but she didn’t pick up.
“That’s when he got worried,” Boyce said, and he contacted his neighbor, an NYPD police chief, who immediately called 911.
“We don’t have anything that leads us to any individual,” Boyce said. “There’s a lot of digital evidence, home video, cameras looking into the street. We’re collecting that right now.”
He added, “We have one shot 5:46 [of her] running by one of the homes there. Her phone is going to help us out we have other evidence at the scene.”
The NYPD’s chief spokesman, Stephen Davis, said that it appeared Vetrano had been sexually assaulted.
“The [medical examiner] needs to confirm that, but there were marks on the body that were consistent with sexual assault,” Davis said at the presser.
Even before the remains were identified as those of Vetrano, neighbors feared the worst. One young girl on the block collapsed in tears while police investigators descended on the neighborhood.
“She had a routine jog,” one neighbor said.
Another neighbor, who would identify himself only as John, said that Vetrano went jogging with her father nearly every night before he suffered an injury.
“He asked her, ‘Don’t go in there,’ ” John said referring to the weedy area.
“They found her phone over here [on the path] . . . If these weeds weren’t this high, we would have seen her,” John said, adding that “all girls know not to walk along these weeds.”
Another neighbor said that “hobos and bums” typically lurk in the weeded area.
Vetrano’s Instagram account is littered with photos of her enjoying her summer, sipping cocktails, traveling to exotic destinations and soaking up the sun with friends.
Just a week ago, she posted an Instagram photo showing her celebrating her friend Alicia’s wedding in Astoria.
“Alicia, I cherish you & *us* more than words can say,” Vetrano wrote in the post. “From 14 year olds to entering our 30s 3 days apart, to your marriage, I will always be here for you & I love you.”
In another recent snapshot with her dad on his 60th birthday, Vetrano called him her “hero” and said, “I’m so blessed to have a father I can call my best friend.”
Vetrano, who was an avid runner, posted an image online that showed her wearing a medal from the Spartan Race at Citi Field 15 weeks ago.