Slain runner’s parents, Cathy and Phil Vetrano, cheered in court, announcing that ‘justice has been served’, more than two years after their daughter’s battered body was found near her home
New York jury Monday found Chanel Lewis, 22, guilty of strangling and sexually abusing Karina Vetrano in Queens in August 2016
The 30-year-old’s body was found dumped near her family’s home in Howard Beach soon after she vanished while out jogging
The jury delivered the guiltily verdict just hours after they began deliberating on Monday
A previous trial ended in a hung jury when jurors failed to reach a verdict
Vetrano’s family and supporters erupted into applause when Lewis was found guilty on all counts
Lewis’ defense questioned the DNA evidence found on the victim and said his confession was coerced
A jury found Chanel Lewis, 22, guilty of murder and sexual abuse at his retrial on Monday
A jury convicted Chanel Lewis on Monday over the murder and sexual assault of the 30-year-old fitness and yoga buff on August 2, 2016.
The defendant had recanted his initial confession at the time he ws rrested that he punched Vetrano several times in the face before wrapping his arms around her throat and squeezing the life out of her.
Karina Vetrano was murdered as she ran on a park trail in Howard Beach, Queens, back in August 2016. Police said she had been raped and strangled.
Vetrano’s body was found dumped near her family’s home in Howard Beach soon after she vanished while out jogging.
The jury delivered the verdict just hours after they began deliberating on Monday following the closing arguments. His previous trial ended in a hung jury in November.
Vetrano’s family and supporters erupted into applause when Lewis was found guilty on all counts.
Lewis’ sentencing is scheduled for April 17 and he faces life in prison without parole.
Lewis’ attorneys, the Legal Aid Society, called the outcome ‘a complete miscarriage of justice’.
They had unsuccessfully sought a hearing on Monday after getting an anonymous letter saying that police had pursued two white suspects before taking DNA samples from hundreds of black men – in what the defense called a ‘race-biased dragnet’ – and coming to focus on Lewis.
They claimed the letter alerted them to so-called exculpatory evidence about other potential suspects that they say was withheld from them.
It included a claim that NYPD officers had repeatedly said in the first two weeks of the investigation that they were ‘looking for two jacked up white guys who are from Howard Beach’.
His attorneys further claimed that police used a ‘race-biased dragnet’ to collect DNA samples from 360 black men in Howard Beach before targeting Lewis and that detectives coerced his confession.
The New York Police Department said in a statement that the anonymous letter was ‘riddled with falsehoods and inaccuracies,’ the investigation was painstaking and ‘the evidence clearly shows that Chanel Lewis is responsible for her death.’
Chief Queens Assistant District Attorney John Ryan called the case ‘horrifying.’
The closely watched murder case initially baffled investigators, who for months were unable to find anyone who matched DNA that was found under the victim’s fingernails from when she fought back.
Lewis was arrested six months into the murder investigation after police said he provided a DNA swab that linked him to the scene and victim.
Despite that DNA evidence and a taped confession, the first trial ended in a hung jury in November.
Lewis’ attorneys repeatedly said during the retrial this month that the DNA evidence was suspect and that his confession was coerced by detectives who wore him down until he finally gave them what they wanted.Chanel Lewis found guilty in court for murdering Karina Vetrano
Victim: Karina Vetrano, 30, posed for this photo right before she left to go jogging, with her mother in the background, on the day she was murdered as she ran on a park trail in Howard Beach, Queens, back in Aug 2016. She’d been raped and strangled, cops said
The confession video was played to jurors last week during which Lewis said: ‘I got angry. It went red, and then one thing led to another. I got scared and threw her in the bushes.’
Lewis said he hit Vetrano in the face around five times before dumping her in the bushes, but denies sexually assaulting her.
The 30-year-old went missing on August 2, 2016, after she was last seen jogging near her home in Howard Beach.
Her mother, Cathie Vetrano, tried calling her daughter on her cell phone, but there was no answer.
Her father, Phil Vetrano, found her body face down in weeds off a path while helping police search for his daughter.
The court rejected defense rguement that the crime scene had been corrupted by various people, including Vetrano’s father, and therefore couldn’t be trusted.
They also argued that Lewis in his confession was just repeating information he learned from news reports about the murder.