Suspect Apprehended in Howard Beach Murder

ASHLEY BENTSEN

Karina Vetrano, 30, was killed after going for a solo run near her home in Howard Beach, an upscale neighborhood in Queens, at 5pm on August 2nd, 2016.

Police say she was dragged off the jogging path in an area of parkland dominated by weeds and marshes. At 9pm that evening, her father, Phil Vetrano, and NYPD officers found her lifeless body face down amidst lofty weeds about 15 feet off the desolate path only 14 blocks from her home. It was there that she was sexually assaulted and strangled to death.

In the days and weeks that followed the murder, NYPD officers received over 250 tips and the reward money for any tip leading to the arrest of her killer was topped at $300,000. A little over six months later, on Feb 5th, police arrested Chanel Lewis, a 20 year old Brooklyn man with no priors, for the murder of Karina Vetrano.

Chanel Lewis was filled with toxic rage when he grabbed Vetrano as she went for a summer evening run in Queens, according to authorities. She wasn’t being stalked or targeted. It was a “chance encounter” said Phil Vetrano, “She was in the wrong place at the wrong time and just happened to be very unlucky that day.”  “Lewis doesn’t really explain why it happened. It was a very random thing. He just came up on her and acted out. There wasn’t any conversation. It was a chance encounter. There was no reason to believe he was stalking her. He just happened to come up on her.” said an NYPD officer.

Lewis has no prior arrests but did receive three summonses near the East New York entrance to the park dating back to 2013, NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said. In May, a neighbor called 911 about Lewis, citing him as a “suspicious person.” The next day, sources say there was a 911 call about Lewis because he was found lurking around neighbors backyards 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 to the DNA previously found wedged under Vetrano’s fingernails, behind her ear, and on her cell at the crime scene.

“This defendant admitted to attacking the victim, admitted to beating her, to strangling her and dragging her body in the weeds,” Queens assistant district attorney Michael Curtis said. Lewis was arrested outside of his house and has been charged with second degree murder which mandates 25 years to life. “The demon must get his justice,” said Vetrano’s mom, Cathy. “We will see to it.”