DNA tests done on a naked man recently found in the marshy area where Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano was killed in August have led authorities to clear him of any involvement in the slaying, a police official said.
Matthew Fox, 47, of Ozone Park, was discovered by police ranting in Spring Creek Park the night of Sept. 27. At one point, he yelled out “the father did it and I have nothing to do with it,” according to police, an apparent reference to Vetrano’s slaying Aug. 2.
Police said Fox consented to a DNA test and the results showed his genetic structure did not match the unknown samples found on Vetrano’s body and personal effects, an NYPD official said. Police said Fox appeared to be on drugs and charged him with public lewdness.
While the results allow detectives to cross Fox off their list, they still have no viable persons of interest because the DNA found with Vetrano has not matched any known profiles in state and national databases.
Police also face another DNA disappointment, because the unidentified material did not come up as even a partial match with profiles of potential relatives, the official said. Known as familial DNA comparison, the procedure led in 2010 to the arrest of Lonnie David Franklin Jr., the so-called “Grim Sleeper” — so named because of the 13-year gap in the killing of several women in California. Franklin was convicted earlier this year of murder and was sentenced last month to be executed, court records show.
Vetrano, a St. John’s University graduate and avid runner, was found strangled in the weeds of Spring Creek Park. She normally ran with her father Philip, but he couldn’t that night because of a back problem. When his daughter didn’t return home, Philip Vetrano called police, who pinged Karina’s cellphone. Vetrano and detectives found her body. An autopsy revealed the cause of death was strangulation and police said she had been beaten and sexually assaulted.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce has said Vetrano’s family members were immediately cleared as suspects, as were her former boyfriends. Boyce also has said police still believe the killing was a random act. He said detectives have vetted about 200 leads, discounting almost all of them.
On Monday, Philip Vetrano, who has raised more than $282,000 in reward money, said he thinks it is possible someone from the Howard Beach neighborhood might have killed his daughter. A police review of private surveillance videos, however, didn’t reveal anyone entering or leaving the park on the Howard Beach side at the time of the crime.