Karina Vetrano murder trial begins with opening statements

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Monday, November 5, 2018
Karina Vetrano murder trial begins with opening statements
Tim Fleischer has the latest on the trial of the man accused of killing Karina Vetrano.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Opening statements began Monday in the trial of the man accused of killing Karina Vetrano, a woman who was out for a jog when she was brutally murdered in Queens.

Chanel Lewis, 20, is charged with first-degree murder and sexual abuse. He has pleaded not guilty.

Police say he strangled and sexually assaulted Vetrano along a running path in Howard Beach in August of 2016.

He was arrested six months later.

Police believe Lewis chose the 30- year-old victim at random.

"It was by happenchance that they met," Assistant District Attorney Brad Leventhal said in opening arguments. "She didn't provoke him. He sees her, and he kills her."

She had gone for a run but did not return, and her father Phil became concerned and went looking for her.

"Phil yells, 'Karina! Karina!'" Leventhal said. "He doesn't find her. He can't reach her. He's afraid."

As police joined the search, Vetrano's father and officer found her body in the weeds near the park not far from her home.

"They heard a loud bellowing scream, a wail," Leventhal said. "Phil Vetrano had found the missing girl...fell to his knees, hysterical. He cradled her. He lifted her."

Now, Vetrano's mother and a number of other family members must endure the painful and gruesome details.

Lewis was identified through DNA evidence, and investigators describe the evidence in this case as overwhelming. But Lewis' family and attorney believe his confession was coerced.

"There will be no eyewitness, no one will come into the court room and say he did it," defense attorney Jenny Cheung said. "They are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole."

She question the police interrogation of Lewis, which happened over a 10-hour period.

"Shortcuts were taken," Cheung said. "The government's evidence is incomplete."

Click here for more stories on Vetrano's murder and the investigation.


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