Emotional walk and prayer service held in honor of Karina Vetrano in Queens

HOWARD BEACH, Queens (WABC) -- It was a long walk to St. Helen's Church, but hundreds in Howard Beach did it anyway. They held hands, and pushed strollers and many dressed in Karina Vetrano's favorite color. They wanted it so badly to be a celebration.

"It's beautiful, and it really touches the heart, and it's honoring. I cry and I'm extremely grateful," said Jackie Hartsein, Karina's best friend.

30-year-old Karina was sexually assaulted a year ago now, in a crime that rocked Howard Beach to its core.

She had gone for a run and not returned and her own father, along with police, found her body in the weeds near the park, not far from her home.

No one was arrested for six agonizing months, but then police arrested 20-year-old Chanel Lewis. It has not helped, but the neighborhood has.

"When a horrible, horrific thing happened to my daughter, everyone has shown support and said, 'We won't allow this. This can't happen, and we're going to stand by them.' And that's what they've done," said Cathie Vetrano, Karina's mother.

Both parents say what you see here, is what they have seen during this excruciating year, a community that supports her family through an agony that does not recede.

"It's horrible. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of her, that we're not crying and upset. It never gets easier. Time just goes by," Hartsein said.

Time just goes by, she said. Howard Beach prayed Wednesday night with and for a wounded family. In the end, they released balloons and tried to summon the memories they share.

"My daughter was a good, decent, beautiful person. She met with evil and this neighborhood is supporting us and saying, 'We won't put up with that,'" Cathie said.
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