Man Found Guilty At Retrial In Karina Vetrano Murder Case

UPDATED 8:12AM on April 2, 2019

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — After five hours of deliberations, a Queens jury found Chanel Lewis guilty on all counts in the 2016 murder of Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano.

Lewis had no reaction as the verdict was read. The murder conviction triggered cheers in the courtroom from the victim's family. Her father declared that justice had been served as legal aid lawyers for Lewis promised an appeal.

The verdict came just hours after closing arguments concluded in the retrial Monday.

During closing arguments Monday, the jury was shown crime scene photos of Vetrano’s battered face as the prosecutor described her murder in graphic detail, according to WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell. As he spoke, the victim’s relatives and friends lowered their heads.

Jurors were told DNA evidence proves Lewis, 22, of Brooklyn, sexually assaulted and murdered the 30-year-old in August 2016 as she jogged near Spring Creek Park in the Queens neighborhood.

However, even with a taped confession and police claiming his DNA was found under the victim’s nails and on her phone, the first jury was unable to reach a verdict in November.

This time jurors believed the confession and accepted DNA evidence from Vetrano's neck, fingernails and cell phone.

The defense continued to question the reliability of the samples and argued Lewis’ confession was not voluntary. They told jurors the evidence against Lewis was circumstantial as there were no eyewitnesses, no video and no fingerprints found.

Attorneys for Lewis filed a motion for a mistrial over a “race-biased dragnet” and claimed an anonymous letter, claiming to be from a police officer, said police suspected two white men in the murder but only took DNA samples from over 360 black men in the area.

Prosecutors said the letter contained no verifiable information and was simply presented as a way to derail the trail.

The NYPD said the letter was riddled with inaccuracies and falsehoods.

The judge denied a request from the defense asking for a hearing on the letter and also denied the defense’s motion for a mistrial.