NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The father of slain Queens jogger Karina Vetrano said Tuesday the money raised in a reward fund for information leading to an arrest in his daughter’s murder case will be donated to charity.
“Now we can use all this money that you very generous people have donated,” Phil Vetrano said on the fund’s GoFundMe page Tuesday. “I mentioned in the beginning that we would use this money for charities that Karina would want.”
The GoFundMe account set up by the Vetrano family had raised nearly $289,000 by Tuesday morning, with more than 4,500 people contributing to the fund. The fund was established to supplement a $35,000 reward offered by the New York City Police Department for information connected to the six-month-long investigation.
The initial goal of the GoFundMe page was to raise $100,000 in a week, but that goal was quickly surpassed and continued to grow.
Vetrano said he is also looking for donor input on where the money should go.
“I would also like all of your input, you all donated and you should have a say,” Vetrano wrote. “Message me and give an opinion.”
Vetrano said some choices include St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, the ASPCA or a scholarship for Molloy High School, where Karina attended.
Chanel Lewis, 20, of East New York, Brooklyn, was taken into custody for police questioning on Saturday, six months and two days after the Queens jogger’s death. Lewis was charged with second-degree murder and is being held without bail, authorities said.
Vetrano was strangled when she went for a run alone in Spring Creek Park on Aug. 2 of last year. Later that night, her retired firefighter father found her battered body in a marsh not far from their Howard Beach home.
Over the next six months, investigators combed through the federal park land, looked through surveillance video, questioned hundreds of people, and collected 600 samples of DNA — none were a match.
Police said Lewis was tracked down late last week at his home in East New York, Brooklyn that he shares with his mother and sister.
The complaint against Lewis claims he “did punch the victim, Karina Vetrano, about the face and head and strangled the victim around the neck, thereby causing her death.”
Police said Lewis was walking through the park to get something to eat in Howard Beach when the suspect claims Vetrano startled him.
Investigators said he became enraged and strangled her, but Lewis claims he didn’t sexually assault Vetrano. He then fled the park on the East New York side, police said.
Authorities said Lewis did not know Vetrano before the attack.
If convicted, Lewis faces up to 25 years to life in prison.
Lewis was arraigned Sunday and his next court date is set for Feb. 21.