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Still in suspense: Unsolved crime continues to haunt some Bay Ridgites one year later

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This murder is still a mystery.

Sept. 29 was the one-year anniversary of the death of a 35-year-old Ridgite who a jogger found murdered in Owl’s Head Park near Colonial Road and Wakeman Place, whose killer remains at large even after police released photos and a video of the suspect who was last seen with the woman before her death. And many Ridgites are still rattled by the unsolved crime.

“It worries me because it makes me think that someone is protecting this person,” said Eric Powell, who lives near the park and often visits it with his young daughter. “When they have footage and pictures, someone has to know something.”

The 5-foot-8, 175-pound suspect was the last person seen with Jennifer Cohen, and surveillance footage captured the pair walking down Second Avenue towards the park around 2:45 am on Sept. 29 of last year. The jogger found Cohen’s lifeless body there a few hours later around 9 am, according to authorities. Police also found hypodermic needles in her purse near her body, which had severe head and face trauma.

The investigation is still ongoing, and the police department is offering a $2,500 reward for anyone who offers information that leads to the arrest of the suspect.

Last year was the first that a murder took place in Owl’s Head Park in nearly fifty years, according to a Bay Ridge historian who also leads tours of the green space. The last park killing he recalled was the slaying of 17-year-old Leonard Coury, who was shot in the head there in 1974. But the Ridge history buff said that Coury’s murder reflected social and economic problems, including vandalism, already plaguing the nabe at the time, whereas Cohen’s 2016 murder seemed more random considering the neighborhood’s relative safety today.

“I think it’s fair to read the Coury case as indicative of its era — a low-point in the decline of the park,” said Henry Stewart. “I do not think you could say the same about Ms. Cohen’s death. It’s a tragedy, but a unique one. The park is and continues to thrive despite it.”

Indeed, the police department said that the 68th Precinct, which covers Owl’s Head Park and Bay Ridge, as well as Dyker Heights, is among the city’s safest. The area has only seen one murder so far this year, and Cohen’s was among three murders in the precinct last year.

But not all locals were reassured by the relative tranquility of the Ridge. One mother who frequents the park with her two kids said that the fact that Cohen’s killer is still on the loose worries her, despite the nabe’s otherwise low crime rates.

“I know violent crime is rare in this neighborhood, but it is still very scary that the person has not been caught,” Rachel Johnson said. “I take my kids to that park a couple times a week and always feel safe, but would feel even better if the murderer was found.”

Community Board 10’s district manager said there has been “great concern” among locals about maintaining the safety of the park and catching the killer.

“Security was a concern, because there are parts of Owl’s Head Park that are off the lighted street and not visible,” said Josephine Beckmann. “There were a great deal of people throughout the community who were upset. Murders don’t happen often here — we’re one of the safest communities in the city of New York — and it raises everyone’s eyebrows and people get concerned when it happens.”

Beckmann said the community should keep its focus on remembering Cohen and the unjust nature of her death.

“She was a crime victim and she suffered a terrible death,” she said. “Her assailant is still out there.”

Last year, Cohen’s brother, Andrew Lavin, started a GoFundMe page to cover her funeral costs, which he said the family did not have the money to pay for. He raised just $4,700 of the $10,000 goal.

Cohen left behind two sons. Her family could not be reached for comment by press time.

Police are asking anyone with information regarding the murder to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577–8477. The public can also submit tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website at www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then entering TIP577.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Updated 5:54 pm, July 9, 2018
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