For Phil Vetrano, the grief in these past six months since Lewis’ arrest has been just as painful as those first six months of the unknown.
But he’s found ways to honor his daughter’s legacy.
In the months after the killing, he poured his energy into advocating for familial DNA testing, a controversial investigative method that allows police to search for suspects who left behind DNA by identifying their relatives. Before an arrest was made, Phil Vetrano hoped to use the DNA recovered from the crime scene to identify a possible suspect in his daughter’s killing. The method, which is used in at least 10 other states, has drawn criticism from some attorneys and civil liberties advocates, who say that it unfairly involves law-abiding people in cases because of their family members, the AP said.
Police did not use familial DNA testing to make their case against Lewis, but Phil Vetrano didn’t stop advocating for its use in New York state. Now, familial DNA searching is expected to be available in New York in the fall.
“That is a miracle,” he said. “I wasn’t going to stop pushing for familial testing because it needed to be done. There are other families out there [who] don’t know who killed their loved one, and they need to know.”
And now that a suspect is in custody, the Vetranos are donating money from the reward fund they had raised for information leading to an arrest to charities significant to their daughter, including creating a scholarship for students at her former high school and giving to St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
“She actually gave to St. Jude while she was alive,” Phil Vetrano said of his daughter. “She was a young girl not making much money … and she still donated to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. So that’s a big charity we continue to donate to periodically.”
At least once a day, Phil Vetrano said he returns to the Howard Beach jogging path where his daughter spent her final moments.
There, he’s made a small memorial, planting sunflowers and wildflowers in Karina Vetrano’s memory.
“It gives me a sense of peace because it’s basically the only place that I have control,” he said. “I have no control over anything else. I go there every day. I feed the birds, I have bird houses there. I feed the cats.”
He also finds solace in Karina Vetrano’s nephew, his 15-month-old grandchild.
“If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what I would do,” he said. “He’s the only joy I have in life.”
One year after her death, Phil Vetrano said he hopes people remember his daughter’s kindness and smile, her writing and “her love of life.”
“She always enjoyed herself,” he said. “It should be an example to others to live your life live every day as if it’s your last day. Because you don’t know what 10 minutes from now is going to bring you. And that’s how Karina lived her life.”
Source: ABC News’