WHAT HAPPENED? (1)
I hate to say this, but this is another story about a young woman being murdered while out on a run, similar to the story of Karina Vetrano from just a few days ago. In Karina's story, I talked briefly about a similar story of a girl who was found killed on a run days after she was killed... That was Vanessa Marcotte.
On August 7, 2016, Vanessa was out for a jog in Princeton, Massachusetts when she was assaulted and murdered. Her case wasn't solved until April 15, 2017 when DNA evidence linked one Angelo Colon-Ortiz to her death.
DISAPPEARANCE AND INVESTIGATION (1)
Vanessa was born in Leominster, Massachusetts in 1989 to John and Rosanna Marcotte. She was an only child, and graduated with honors and a bachelor's degree in communication from Boston University in 2011. She worked at a Boston marketing startup called WordStream, and worked at Vistaprint.
She got a new job as an account manager at Google in New York City where she worked until she was killed. But while she lived in New York City, she would come to visit her mother and aunt in Princeton, Massachusetts on a regular basis.
On Sunday, August 7, Vanessa left her mom's house to go for a run before heading back home later in the day. But when hours passed and she didn't return, her family notified the police who immediately launched a search.
Her body was found off of a trail at around 8:20 PM, not even a half mile away from her mother's home.
It was immediately classified as a murder. Her body was naked and she had burns on her face, feet and hands. She had been strangled and sexually assaulted, and had crushing injuries to her throat and nose. Her clothes and cell phone were missing, and never recovered. Foreign DNA was found at the scene.
A local witness had seen Vanessa talking on her phone at about 1 PM, and another said they saw a car following her. Authorities say she put up a "huge struggle" during the attack.
The murder gained a lot of media attention, in part because of the similarities between her and Karina's cases. FBI profilers believed that Vanessa was attacked at random by a stranger who likely lived in the surrounding area of Princeton. Police received 1,300+ tips as it was released that her killer would likely have scratches and cuts, as well as bruises on his body from the struggle.
On February 23, 2017, over 6 months after the murder, further details were released, stating that the DNA evidence had been sent to a lab. The DNA profile confirmed the suspect was a Hispanic or Latino man his his late 20s to 30s with an athletic build, average height, and short or shaved hair.
THE KILLER (1)
On April 15, 2017, it was announced that Vanessa's alleged killer had been arrested. He was Angelo Colon-Ortiz, 31, who lived in the area. He plead not guilty.
He matched the description of the suspect, and drove a vehicle similar to the one spotted following Vanessa. When he provided his DNA sample, it matched the DNA found on Vanessa's hands.
He had no criminal history and was married with 3 children, and had lived in the area for less than a year. He worked for FedEx, and was familiar with the area because of it. Neighbors said he was "perverted" and would often make vulgar sexual comments to people in the neighborhood, which was corroborated by coworkers.
On the day of the murder, it is believed that Colon-Ortiz was sitting in his car, hood up, in the area where Vanessa was running. He was not working in the area that day, so it was not known why he would be sitting there that day.
As of now, he is in jail being held without bail, but has not yet been convicted of the murder.
Vanessa's family has created the Vanessa Marcotte Foundation that focuses on the safety of women in the United States, as more than 600 women are assaulted each and every day.
According to the website, Vanessa was "taking life by storm". She was living in Manhattan working for Google, while also maintaining other parts of her life: practicing yoga, hanging out with friends. She lived her life to the fullest. She was kind and compassionate.
"She was fun," her family says, and she had a great sense of style that she was always willing to help others with. She loved to read, run, walk, and go to the beach. She was motivated, as evidenced in her climb to Google at such a young age. She spent a lot of her down time helping at a food bank, tutoring high school students, supporting a Children's Hospital and planting community gardens.
The Vanessa Marcotte foundation has tips for safety for women while running. There are over 20 bullets of considerations for women while running and walking alone.
They include: tell someone where you're going, stay on well-traveled and well-lit roads, run with a dog, group, or another person if possible, don't wear headphones, bring a phone and install a safety app, cross the street from suspicious people, don't run the same route twice, know where you're going to avoid looking confused, don't be distracted, don't wear a ponytail that is easy to grasp, run confidently, trust your gut, bring pepper spray, avoid unpopulated areas, wear reflective material, memorize license plates, carry a noisemaker, call police immediately if something is off, don't stop to help anyone, park your car in a busy well lit area, and stay alert.
Isn't that insane? What's more insane is that none of these are crazy or super paranoid items. These are things women consider whenever they plan to exercise outside alone. These are things that men may not even think of when they throw on their shoes and go out the door. You don't have to think if you have pepper spray and a phone to call the police or how to wear your hair so its harder for an attacker to grab. It is horrific.
And again, so many of these things just don't end up mattering. Of course, we still do them. But you could follow every single rule and still fall victim to a criminal. You can run a different route every single day so somebody doesn't see your routine and still, a predator can find you. You can bring your pepper spray and phone and noisemaker and have everything you need and still get taken. You can run confidently and be strong and put up a fight and still lose.
Vanessa Marcotte had a really insanely successful life ahead. She was living her dream, working an amazing job while leaving her free time to bettering herself and her community. She was a good, loved person who's life was cut way too short. The world is a worse place for not having her in it.