Karina Vetrano murder: Father testifies in Chanel Lewis' retrial

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Karina Vetrano murder: Father testifies in Chanel Lewis' retrial
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NJ Burkett has the latest on the Karina Vetrano murder retrial.

HOWARD BEACH, Queens (WABC) -- Karina Vetrano's father was back on the stand Wednesday in the retrial of the man charged in his daughter's murder.

Phil Vetrano also testified in Chanel Lewis' first trial, which ended in November with a hung jury.

Lewis, 22, is accused of sexually abusing and strangling 30-year-old Karina Vetrano as she jogged near her home in Howard Beach, Queens, in 2016.

Phil Vetrano told jurors about a frantic voicemail message he left for Karina while he desperately searched for her along the trail they had run together many times before, a message that was played for the court.

"Karina?" he says. "Where the (expletive) are you, Karina?"

In a particularly gruesome moment, Phil Vetrano was asked to identify a selfie Karina had taken earlier in the year, showing her perfect teeth.

"It shows her beautiful teeth, yes," he answered. "She took great pride in her teeth."

He was asked to look at a crime scene photo of his daughter's face and describe what he saw.

"It looks like Karina's mouth, all beat to hell," he said after a long pause. "They weren't cracked. She had perfect teeth, and those are not."

He was then asked if he'd ever been asked to provide a DNA sample.

"At Karina's funeral, in a back room," where he went with two detectives, he said. "I told them, 'If you need my right arm, I'll give you that.'"

During cross examination, he testified that he picked up Karina's body but was pulled away almost immediately. He explained the route he searched and the trails they ran, and he said he assisted in the search "because I knew the terrain."

On Tuesday, he told the jury Tuesday about finding and cradling his daughter's cold, stiff body.

"I let out a sound I never made before or since," he said. "A wail, a cry or screaming. 'My baby!' I said, 'I have to take her home. I have to take her home.'"

His wife, Cathie Vetrano, testified for the first time Tuesday. She now has a tattoo of her daughter's face on her forearm and wore a butterfly pin because of Karina's fondness for butterflies, and she was called as a witness over the objections of the defense.

She told jurors that the last time she saw her daughter alive was in her kitchen before Karina went running. The next time she saw her was "in a funeral parlor, in a coffin."


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