Jogger’s slay rekindles anguish of eerily similar cold case
A pretty brunette is jogging through a secluded patch of park.
Suddenly, she is dragged from the road by a depraved fiend, likely one of the park’s many vagrants.
And though she’s strong and fighting for her life — even losing her tooth in the struggle — the poor woman is soon bludgeoned and overpowered in a rape-murder that galvanizes the NYPD.
This is not the Aug. 2 slaying of Queens jogger Karina Vetrano, whose battered body was left in the weeds of Spring Creek Park near her home in Howard Beach.
It’s a closely similar case, though — a still-unsolved shocker from 20 years ago that, along with the Vetrano murder, now brackets the career of outgoing NYPD Com*missioner Bill Bratton.
“I remember it very well,” former Manhattan sex-crimes prosecutor Linda Fairstein said Wednesday of the 1995 murder, in Central Park, of jogger Maria Isabel Monteiro *Alves.
“I remember walking the crime scene, along a stream. She was right under the overpass of a little footbridge . . . She was badly beaten and bludgeoned, either with an object or with her head against a rock,” Fairstein, now a crime novelist, remembered.
“We met the police there and walked the crime scene over and over again. They had a canvass *going there for weeks.”
To no avail. Among the two murders’ many parallels is that both are unsolved.
“You can’t imagine how much I’ve suffered over this,” Alves’ mother, Lidia Pinto Machado, 86, said this week in a phone call to her home on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “I think of her every day. The police said they would work hard to bring me justice, but they never did,” she said bitterly, speaking in her native Portuguese.
“My daughter wasn’t important enough for them,” she added. “I don’t believe they will ever find out what happened to her.”
And when she saw the news on TV recently about another pretty jogger in New York — someone else’s beloved daughter being pulled from a parkland path to her death — Machado cried.
“I thought, ‘Here goes another one.’”
It was a predawn Sunday morning in mid-September when *Alves, 44, went on her final run.
Originally from Brazil, she’d moved to New York some 20 years prior and worked at an exclusive Madison Avenue shoe store, Stephane Kelian of Paris, sending money home regularly to her mother.
Alves was quiet, introverted, a dedicated Buddhist and vegetarian.
She did not read newspapers because she hated violence, one friend from Brazil said in news accounts at the time.
She ran “like an automaton,” eyes straight ahead, undistracted, a *police source would tell The Post 20 years ago.
Not an easy target, given her *focus and physical strength.
Maybe, investigators wondered, she stopped for some reason, maybe to rest or stretch against the wooden railing that lines the East Drive in the northern reaches of the park, where she was heading.
It was raining as she set out that morning, but Alves was training for the upcoming New York City Marathon. She didn’t want to miss a run. “Every day before work she was in the park,” her mother told The Post.
Before leaving her studio sublet in the exclusive Parc Vendome on West 56th Street near Columbus Circle, she threw on fluorescent *orange jogging shorts and a bright yellow rain slicker.
It was 6 a.m. in a steady downpour, with the sun not quite risen.
She wanted to be seen.
Alves’ body would be found three hours later and 50 blocks north.
She’d been dragged from East Drive at 106th Street down a short, stone-paved path, fighting all the way.
Like Vetrano, Alves had struggled so fiercely, she had lost teeth.
Like Vetrano, the Alves attack was a rape, or an attempted rape.
Alves was found face-down in a muddy stream, 20 feet below the roadway. Her orange shorts had been pulled to her ankles.
Both women were horribly bludgeoned, although Vetrano’s cause of death was strangulation.
Alves’ cause of death was skull fractures caused by blunt objects. Coroners would not show her face to her boss at the shoe store, who instead identified her by two rings she wore, one of them made from a half-dollar.
“There was a lot of blood,” Fairstein, whose new book is “Killer Look,” recalled Wednesday.
“She was bludgeoned, either with an object or with her head against a rock. There were a lot of rocks in the stream.”
Without witnesses in either rape-murder, DNA and forensics would be key.
Sources have said that evidence in the Vetrano case was being tested for DNA, but in the Alves case there would be nothing to test — in fact, no forensics *whatsoever.
Any evidence that might have been there, investigators would find, had been washed away by the stream and the rain.
Bratton had been appointed to lead the NYPD just the previous year, in 1994, fresh from the helm of the Boston Police *Department.
He’d still been in Boston during the 1989 Central Park jogger case, a shocking attack that left its victim, investment banker Trisha Meili, in a coma for 12 days.
Now Bratton pulled out all the stops for his own administration’s first big Central Park jogger case.
Some 50 detectives were *assigned to the Alves case.
Investigators canvassed the park for weeks. Divers scoured the stream where her body was recovered. Helicopters plied the airspace above the park.
The new commissioner announced the formation of a task force to solve the murder, just as he would do this month, on the brink of his retirement, in the Vetrano case.
“He left no stone unturned,” Fairstein recalled of Bratton. “He cares very much about all homicides. But no police commissioner wants a homicide and sex attack committed in a public park.”
Tips poured in by the hundreds, and scores of nearby sex offenders and park-frequenting homeless men were questioned — some telling fanciful tales, later discredited, of knowing who did it or of *witnessing everything.
For months, Bratton’s task force labored, but the trail went cold.
“You have no idea how much pain I am in,” Alves’ mother said Wednesday.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get justice.”