Chanel Lewis, 20, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder after the medical examiner's lab matched his DNA to evidence from the crime scene and under Vetrano's fingernails. He is being held without bail after his arraignment in the August 2 Howard Beach slaying. Her body was found amid the weeds in a marshy park not far from her home in Howard Beach, Queens.
Lewis' arraignment was very emotional for Vetrano's parents, who saw the man accused of killing their daughter for the first time.
Lewis was taken into custody over the weekend. A law enforcement official told Eyewitness News the suspect made two videotaped confessions. He indicated he was angry about something at home and left the apartment. He wandered into Spring Creek Park and when he saw Karina, he just "lost it." He said he hit her and choked her. He gave a detailed account of the attack but denied any sexual assault.
Evidence has been recovered at his apartment, including clothing he may have been wearing at the time of the attack.
Lewis' father, Richard Lewis, doesn't believe the accusations.
"He is a wonderful young man," he said. "Wonderful. And he is great. He is good. He wouldn't have done whatever I see, whatever I heard. He wouldn't have done it."
Lewis does not have a prior record. He is due back in court February 21.
Vetrano's devastated parents spoke out before heading to court for the arraignment, thanking everyone for their support and their love for Karina. They also expressed their gratitude to the NYPD and the community.
"The police did an excellent job," said Phil Vetrano, Karina's father. "They solved this through good, old, hard police investigative work."
"They worked endlessly and tirelessly, and that was because of their passion, combined with our passion for our daughter," said Cathie Vetrano, Karina's mother. "We would stop at nothing to find the savage that did this to her."
Phil Vetrano is vowing that his work is not yet done, and he will follow the legal process to the very end.
Lewis, who does not work, lives in East New York with his mother, and police said they do not believe he was stalking or knew Vetrano.
Police say officials saw Lewis around his neighborhood on the Brooklyn/Queens line back in May and thought he was suspicious. The next day, sources say there was a 911 call about Lewis, because he looked like he was about to break into a property with a crowbar.
Last week, Lewis was considered as someone police should consider in Vetrano's murder. Police found a summons, tracked Lewis down, and he took a voluntary DNA swab on Thursday. On Saturday afternoon, the Medical Examiner's officer reported a match with his DNA at Vetrano's crime scene.
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