Man, 22, gets life in prison for murdering New York jogger Karina Vetrano
Killer told the court ‘I didn’t do this’ as he is sentenced for the brutal slaying after a controversial trial mired by jury misconduct allegations
Chanel Lewis was sentenced on April 23, 2019 to life in prison without parole
He was convicted of killing Karina Vetrano, 30, while she was out jogging in Queens, New York on August 2, 2016
Lewis continued to maintain his innocence as he was sentenced, telling the court: ‘I’m sorry for the family’s loss, but I didn’t do this’
Victim’s mother Cathie Vetrano slammed Lewis as being ‘remorseless’ and a ‘pathetic evil coward’ in her emotional victim impact statement on Tuesday
In a dramatic retrial earlier this month, it took just five hours for a jury to convict Lewis for Vetrano’s murder and sexual assault
A previous trial ended in a hung jury in November 2018
The man convicted of murdering New York jogger Karina Vetrano has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole following two dramatic trials.
Chanel Lewis, 22, was sentenced on Tuesday in Queens Supreme Court for the 30-year-old jogger’s brutal murder and sexual assault more than two years ago.
He was convicted this month of brutally murdering Vetrano as she ran on a park trail near her family home in Howard Beach, Queens, on August 2,
Lewis continued to maintain his innocence as he was given a life sentence without the chance of parole, telling the court: ‘The only thing I want to say is, I’m innocent. I’m sorry for the family’s loss, but I didn’t do this.’
He appeared to yawn as the judge was reading his sentence. His supporters yelled ‘Justice for Chanel’ and ‘Chanel is innocent’ after his sentence was handed down.
Chanel Lewis was convicted this month of brutally murdering Vetrano as she ran on a park trail near her family home in Howard Beach, Queens, back in August 2016
The Vetrano and Lewis family spoke after judge upholds conviction.
In an emotional victim impact statement read by Vetrano’s mother Cathie prior to sentencing, the grieving mother slammed Lewis as being ‘remorseless’ and a ‘pathetic evil coward’.
‘So repulsive are you, that you left her hidden to be further desecrated in the summer hear by bugs and animals… like a snake you slithered away into the night,’ Cathie told Lewis.
‘My hope is that you live a long life within the prison of the law and the prison of your conscious.’
Cathie declared the sentencing day as ‘Karina’s day’ and, at one point, held up a pair of white shoes that her daughter had worn to work the day of her murder.
‘This is a day where we acknowledge that Karina’s life matters,’ she said, adding that her daughter was a ‘valiant warrior and a queen’.
Addressing Lewis, the emotional mother said: ‘The second you put your hands on a child of God, you rejected the Holy Spirit and acted out as the devil.
‘The angels wept and the devils danced in delight as you began to torture and impose the most brutal death on my daughter.’
Judge Michael Aloise said he hoped Lewis would seek forgiveness and eventually admit to the crime.
‘But when you do it, it’ll be in a cage. That’s a guarantee,’ Aloise said.
In a dramatic retrial earlier this month, it took just five hours for a jury to convict Lewis for Vetrano’s murder and sexual assault. A previous trial ended in a hung jury in November.
The angels wept and the devils danced in delight as you began to torture and impose the most brutal death on my daughter.
Karina Vetrano’s mother Cathie.
Chilling surveillance video showed Vetrano running down a road near her home as she made her way to the park just moments before she was murdered
The murder case was closely watched by many as it caused fear among women who run alone and baffled investigators given they couldn’t link DNA on the victim to the suspect for six months.
The case subsequently helped change New York’s DNA investigation rules and became embroiled in debates about race and police procedures.
Vetrano – who worked as a speech pathologist – had left her home at about 5.40pm on August 2, 2016 to go jogging along Spring Creek Park near her family’s home.
Chilling surveillance video showed her running down a road near her home as she made her way to the park. It was the last time she was seen alive. She was accosted and grabbed just minutes later.
Authorities said Vetrano was punched in the face, dragged through thick weeds, thrown to the ground, violently raped and then strangled.
Investigators later determined that Vetrano had desperately fought for her life until the very end.
When she failed to return home after her jog, her father Phil tried calling her three times before alerting police and launching a wide scale search.
Her father eventually found her body face down in the dirt in a section of brush in the park where they often went for runs together about four hours later.
The case baffled investigators for months given they were unable to find anyone in their databases who matched the DNA that was found under the victim’s fingernails, on her neck and on her cellphone.
During their extensive investigation, police took DNA samples from at least 360 black men who had previously been taken into custody in Queens and Brooklyn.
Lewis’ defense attorneys would later call the move a ‘race-biased dragnet’.
Police said Lewis eventually provided a DNA swab that linked him to the scene and victim.
He was arrested six months into the murder investigation in February 2017.
Police said Lewis’ own phone contained downloaded photos of the crime scene and searches for information about the case.
In a taped police confession, Lewis said he was upset at someone else – a neighbor of his who played loud music – and ‘just lost it’ when he saw Vetrano.
‘This girl jogging… and you know, one thing led to another,’ he said in the confession. ‘Hitting her and stuff like that.’
Lewis said he beat and strangled her but did not sexually abuse her.
Before Lewis’ arrest, the investigation prompted police prosecutors to seek state permission to use a technique known as familial DNA searching – looking for people similar enough to be closely related to whoever left DNA at the crime scene, in hopes they will lead to a suspect.
The state Commission on Forensic Science ultimately agreed in June 2017 to allow familial DNA searching in murder, rape and some other cases. The decision came over the objections of civil libertarians who said the practice entangles law-abiding people in investigations because of their family ties.
By the time the commission gave its approval, Lewis had already been arrested.
‘Justice has been served’ Karina Vetrano’s parents on guilty verdict: Cathy and Phil Vetrano were in court on Tuesday as their daughter’s killer was jailed for life without parole
During the first trial, prosecutors described how Vetrano’s father cradled his daughter’s lifeless body when she was found.
‘He fell to his knees, wept and did what any parent would do. He cradled her and lifted her back to his chest,’ prosecutors said.
‘Although he picked her up and cradled her, he did not disturb her… he lay her back down as she appeared.’
The jury spent a day-and-a-half deliberating before revealing it was split.
Prosecutors vowed to retry Lewis and he was held in custody until the retrial began in March this year.
His defense attorneys used the same arguments during the retrial, including that his confession was coerced by detectives who wore him down until he finally gave them what they wanted.
The confession video was played to jurors during the retrial in 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.’
His attorneys said Lewis, in his confession, was just repeating information he learned from news reports about the murder.
They also unsuccessfully appealed to have his conviction delayed after receiving 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.
The NYPD 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.’
He was framed: Lewis’ mother Veta (center on Tuesday) has long claimed that her son was set up and some of his supporters have suggested that the DNA evidence used in his conviction was planted
Lewis was convicted a day later on April 1.
Vetrano’s family and loved ones were filmed erupting in cheers as the jury delivered the guilty verdict in the retrial.
‘Jubilation. Justice. Justice has been served,’ Vetrano’s father Phil told reporters while leaving court.
Lewis’ sentencing was momentarily delayed last week following allegations of jury impropriety.
One juror, Christopher Gooley, came forward saying he was pressured by other jurors into finding Lewis guilty.
It prompted Lewis’ attorneys to ask the judge to declare a mistrial because of alleged jury misconduct.
Multiple jurors denied Gooley’s allegations or denied seeing it happen.
The judge subsequently denied the request for another mistrial and re-scheduled Lewis’ sentencing.
Lewis’ mother Veta has long claimed that her son was framed and some of his supporters have suggested that the DNA evidence used in his conviction was planted.
‘From day one, my son, Chanel Lewis, is innocent,’ his mother previously said.
‘I am a mother. I feel the Vetrano pain, because they lost their daughter. But I too lost a son. And my son is not the killer.’