A Massachusetts man was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to the murder of Vanessa Marcotte, a 27-year-old Google employee who was killed after she went for a walk in 2016, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Angelo Colon-Ortiz, 36, of Worcester, won't be eligible for parole for at least 45 years after pleading guilty to charges of second-degree murder and unarmed robbery, according to a press release from the Worcester County district attorney's office.
Marcotte was an account manager at Google based in New York who had gone to visit her mother's home in Princeton, Massachusetts. She went outside on the afternoon of August 7, 2016, and she was reported missing when she didn't return home as expected. Her body was later found in the woods less than a mile from the home.
Previous reports of Marcotte's death characterized her as having been out for a jog at the time she was attacked, but prosecutors say she was walking.
Even so, her death sparked a heightened awareness of the harassment that female runners regularly face, highlighted in a Runner's World story a year afterward.
Police were able to obtain DNA evidence of the suspect from Marcotte's hands and a description of the suspect based on tips. Eight months after her death, a state trooper stopped a driver -- Colon-Ortiz -- matching the suspect's description, and his DNA matched that of the suspect, leading to his arrest.
District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. praised the work of Massachusetts State Police, Princeton Police and assistant district attorneys for the investigation and prosecution.
"We know nothing can bring Vanessa back, but we know, through the meticulous work of the prosecutors and investigators involved, justice will be served, and the plea allows Vanessa's family to move on from this tragedy."
In a statement, the Marcotte family said they are "thankful and gratified the legal process has accomplished what we always wished for, that this man will now be in a place where he can't hurt anyone else like the way he hurt Vanessa."
The Vanessa T. Marcotte Foundation, established in 2017 in her memory, has held self-defense workshops for women and educated people about violence prevention, runner safety, boundary setting and healthy relationships, according to a press release.
"Vanessa would have wanted us to take action. She'd be proud of what we're accomplishing in her honor to make the world a safer place," foundation co-founders Caroline Tocci and Ashley McNiff said in a statement.
Marcotte, who graduated with honors from Boston University in 2011, had worked at Google since January 2015, according to her LinkedIn profile.
"Vanessa Marcotte was a much loved member of the Google team, working in our New York office for the last year and a half, and known for her ubiquitous smile, passion for volunteer work, and love of Boston sports," a Google spokesperson said after her death. "We are deeply shocked and saddened, and our thoughts are with her family and friends."
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