HOWARD BEACH — The NYPD has increased its reward to $10,000 after only receiving three tips in their hunt for a killer who sexually assaulted and murdered a 30-year-old woman who disappeared while jogging near her home in Howard Beach, officials said.
“We really need the public’s help on this one," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday regarding the brutal slay of Karina Vetrano, 30, who went out for a run Tuesday night in a park near her home on 84th Street and was found hours later in marshes by her house.
Her body was found face-down in a secluded area surrounded by tall weeds and grass, and Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said they plan on cutting down "about every weed in that location until we can satisfy that we got all the evidence."
In the meantime, they're asking for the public's help — and boosting the reward from $2,500 to $10,000 in the hopes of getting any information.
"Now we have a lot of forensic evidence acquired so far. But we’re not getting a lot of Crime Stopper tips," Boyce said, adding that they're only received three "pretty generic" pieces of information.
"This is a situation where anybody has any information, even the possibility something might help the police," de Blasio said. "All of us have to help this family. Anyone who knows something needs to call into the police right away.”
The Vetrano family also offered a separate reward, but that amount was not immediately clear.
Dozens of police officers and investigators were still searching the marsh Thursday and were posted up in front of the family's home speaking with family. Two officers from the NYPD's Technical Assistance Response Unit left the home with what appeared to be some sort of hard drive or cable box.
"That is a very strong community," Boyce said of close-knit Howard Beach. "I’ll be out there as soon I leave here. We have nothing but support from everybody."
Devastated friends and family gathered Wednesday in the parking lot of Vetro — a catering hall, restaurant and lounge blocks near her home where she worked — for a candlelight vigil to remember Vetrano, who ran track at Archbishop Molloy High School in Briarwood and recently received a master's degree in speech pathology from St. John's University.
"The whole neighborhood came together as one for you!," a friend posted on Instagram.
"I really hate when it's under these circumstances .. You will be missed.. Your kind soul, your talent your gorgeous smile and amazing aura! You were loved by so many people and you will be missed."
The whole neighborhood came together as one for you! I really hate when it's under these circumstances .. You will be missed.. Your kind soul, your talent your gorgeous smile and amazing aura! You were loved by so many people and you will be missed .. The neighborhood will forever remember you! May we find justice for you @karina.vee & may God help your family get through this difficult time #KarinaVetrano #justiceforkarina #rip #TAKEHOWARDBEACHBACK
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.