Riverside Park Jogger Bouncing Back from Brutal Attack, Family Says
By Nina Mandell and Nicole Bode
MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS — A Barnard College student knocked unconscious and robbed during a jog through Riverside Park is bouncing back from the attack Wednesday as police search for witnesses, relatives and the NYPD said.
The victim, identified by relatives as 19-year-old Marisa Cortright, originally of Salem, Oregon, seemed in good spirits in a private room at St. Luke’s Hospital three days after the frightening mugging that left her with bleeding on the brain and a broken cheek bone.
"I just talked to her, she was up and eating," said Meg Cramer, Cortright's father’s girlfriend. "She takes care of herself. She’s incredible."
Cortright was jogging through Riverside Park near the tennis courts at 120th Street around 6 a.m. Monday when an unidentified attacker grabbed her, threw her against a wall, and knocked her unconscious, police said.
Police found her lying unconscious on a park bench after someone called 911. Cortright's iPod was snatched during the incident, police said.
Police released a sketch Wednesday of a person of interest they want to bring in for questioning. They described the individual as a heavyset black man in his 40s, standing 6'2" and last seen wearing a long-sleeved blue shirt and black pants.
Officials urged anyone who witnessed the incident or has any information to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).
Cortright's parents and siblings had left for a two-week European vacation days before the attack, and she was the only member of her family to stay home from the trip, a relative said.
Cortright arrived in New York last year after graduating as the salutatorian from Oregon’s West Salem High School. She was spending the summer between her freshman and sophomore years working as a Resident Adviser at one of Columbia's high school summer programs, one of her high school students said.
"She's really really nice. She's really easy to talk to," said Nicole, 17, one of the summer high school students on campus. She said Cortright spent the July 4th holiday — the night before the attack — watching fireworks with her and other high school students from the program.
Cortright had commented on the eery quiet of the early-morning campus with a 6:25 a.m. tweet on June 13, saying "Columbia is QUIET, oh man."
University officials have urged students to be careful in the wake of the mugging.
"In light of this and other incidents in the neighborhood, I urge you to take your personal safety into consideration at all times," Barnard Director of Public Safety Dianna Pennetti wrote in an e-mail to students. "In particular, when entering the park in the early morning, around dusk, and after dark, always go with a friend and be aware of your surroundings."
But many students said they still feel safe jogging in the area.
"We do hear bad things about it sometimes, but if we're careful, it's pretty safe," said Rachel Shi, 23, a student at Columbia's School of Engineering and Applied Science.
with Leslie Albrecht