Vetrano Retrial Ends With Murder, Sexual Assault Conviction

Karina Vetrano. Picture courtesy of Facebook.

Chanel Lewis, 22, was convicted of first-degree murder, sexual abuse and other charges on Monday in Queens Supreme Court for the August 2016 slaying of Karina Vetrano, 30, a Queens’ native from Howard Beach.

Lewis, a Brooklyn resident who was diagnosed in the 2010s as a paranoid schizophrenic, attended Martin De Porres High School in Rockaway Park, a school for students with emotional and behavioral problems, according to school officials.

Spring Creek Park. Photo Google Maps.

He initially volunteered a DNA sample in February 2017 while police were canvassing for suspects and later confessed to strangling Vetrano who was jogging in 2016 at Spring Creek Park, which is along Jamaica Bay at the Queens and Brooklyn border, according to the NYPD.

In November 2018, during the first murder trial against Lewis, lawyers for the defense accused the NYPD of coercing a confession out of the defendant from East New York- a Brooklyn neighborhood that is a few miles west of Howard Beach – despite his DNA evidence on the victim’s neck and fingernails, as well as her cell phone, according to prosecutors. The jury was deadlocked and the case ended up in a mistrial.

Chief Assistant District Attorney John Ryan was proud of the verdict in the retrial on April 1.

“For nearly six long months this woman’s murder remained a mystery,” said Ryan. “But thanks to the continued hard work and persistence of detectives with the NYPD – assisted by members of the Queens District Attorney’s Office – a suspect was apprehended. Last year, a jury could not reach a unanimous verdict and the trial ended with a mistrial. Today, following five hours of deliberations and careful consideration of all the evidence, the jury found Lewis guilty.”

After a nearly three-week-long trial, Lewis will face sentencing on April 17 for his first-degree murder, second-degree intentional murder, second-degree felony murder and first-degree sexual abuse charges, according to Supreme Court Justice Michael Aloise.

Lewis is possibly facing life in prison without parole, according to the DA’s office.

“This was a horrifying case. A vibrant, young woman’s life came to an abrupt and violent end at the hands of a then-20-year-old Brooklyn man. Ms. Vetrano’s death was brutal. She was pulled from a park pathway, sexually assaulted and in her last moments of life she gasped for air as the defendant’s hands tightened around her neck,” said Ryan. ” It is my hope that as this case draws to a close, it will give the family of the victim some closure and comfort knowing her killer will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.”

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