It was a heinous crime.
Karina Vetrano left her Howard Beach, Queens home on a late afternoon in early August 2016 for a jog. Surveillance video from a residential camera showed her jogging through her quiet neighborhood. It was a path to the marsh that she took almost daily with her father. Unfortunately, this time was her last.
After months of investigating and wrangling with The New York State Forensic Science community over using Familial DNA to help catch her killer, in the end, it was good old-fashion police work. Familial DNA is a controversial technique that is currently being used in ten states. The NYPD has had access to “Partial DNA” searches for years. According to NYPD Chief of Detectives, Robert Boyce, investigators recovered DNA under Karina’s nails, off of her back and her cell phone.
Members of the NYPD Detective Bureau tracked down a lead on Chanel Lewis from a 911 call of a suspicious male back in May 2016. A radio car was dispatched and some information taken from that stop. That stop helped investigators identify a suspect.
The complexities and voluminous amounts of data in a criminal investigation such as this are mind-numbing. Forensics, electronics, and newer technologies are helping to solve crimes, but can also hinder them by burying investigators with data.
This case provides lessons for all criminal investigations, but the biggest takeaway is: don’t over rely on forensics to solve the case – go out and do it.
I did a quick appearance on CBS Channel 2 New York via Skype on the case, here it is: