Chanel Lewis, 22, of Brooklyn has been officially sentenced to life in prison Tuesday for the August 2016 strangulation death of the Howard Beach native Karina Vetrano, 30, according to the Queens District Attorney Office.
Despite a last-minute motion that alleged jury misconduct among three jurors from his defense team last week, Lewis was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for first-degree murder, second-degree intentional murder, second degree felony murder and first-degree sexual abuse charges, according to Queens Supreme Court Justice Michael Aloise, who presided over the three-week trial that was held earlier this month.
“For more than two years, the family of Karina Vetrano has been wrought with grief and heartache. They endured her violent death, a trial and then a second trial seeking justice for the 30-year-old victim,” said Chief ADA John Ryan. “This young woman’s life was tragically cut short. The defendant, in this case, has shown not an ounce of remorse for this heinous killing.”
On Aug. 2, 2016, Vetrano was jogging alone on a path at approximately 6 p.m. in the Howard Beach section of Spring Creek Park, which is on the Queens and Brooklyn border, when the defendant became enraged by a neighbor playing loud music and went on the pathway where the five-foot-tall woman was last seen, according to trial testimony.
As Vetrano jogged passed Lewis, he punched her in the face breaking her teeth and grabbed the clothes off the victim, pressed his knees in her torso, exposed her breast and genitals and then proceeded to strangle neck, according to the testimony. He later dragged and left her body near some weeds.
In recorded interviews, Lewis had confessed twice, once to police officers and another time to prosecutors of the beating, but not the sexual assault, according to the DA’s office. There was also DNA evidence of Lewis on her fingernails, her neck and her cell phone and the defendant’s mobile device was pinged from phone towers near the park.
In both confessions, Lewis said, “I lost it” in response to hearing the loud music and then spotting Vetrano, according to trial testimony. He also admitted that he sustained a knuckle injury while beating the victim, which was later verified by an x-ray and written down in medical records by a doctor.
During the trial, there were evidence that Lewis did Internet searches from his cell phone of the victim, crime and legal information regarding Miranda rights, the Fifth Amendment, double jeopardy and death sentences before he was even a suspect, according to testimony.
Lewis may have denied the sexual assault, but a medical examiner found evidence of bruising and tearing of the vaginal area and anus during an autopsy.
Reactions on Twitter were split when it came to Lewis, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in the 2010s, according to his former school officials.
Some Twitter users believe that Lewis’ confession was coerced, that the jurors were prevented from seeing the defendant’s admission being forced out of him and that Aloise was biased against the Brooklynite. They have tweeted #TRUTH, #PlantedDNA, #SystemicRacism and #Railroad, in the belief that he was framed of the crime by police and that the actual killer is still on the loose.
Others believe the defendant is guilty and that his mother Veta Lewis has even buried incriminating evidence to protect her son and that the backlash to the sentencing is a result of the suspect being black, and therefore clouding people’s judgment. These Twitter users have tweeted #QueensJogger, #KarinaVetrano and #Chanellewisisamurderer.
“The Court has ordered the 22-year-old defendant to prison for the rest of his days. It is my hope that this sentence gives the family some comfort knowing their loved one’s killer will never see freedom again,” said Ryan.