A Brooklyn man convicted of brutally killing a jogger in Howard Beach, Queens, was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Authorities said Chanel Lewis, 22, pulled Karina Vetrano, 30, from a running path on August 2, 2016, sexually abused her and strangled her to death not far from her home.
Her father, Phil Vetrano, notified police when she didn’t come home and found the body while searching with police officers. Lewis was arrested in February 2017 after an intense investigation and massive media attention.
“That monster killed four people the night of August 2,” Phil Vetrano said Tuesday at the sentencing hearing, according to CNN affiliate WABC. “One is in heaven. The other three walk the earth as zombies, just waiting to die to be with Karina again.”
WABC said Lewis spoke briefly at the hearing, saying, “I’m sorry for the family’s loss, but I didn’t do this.”
The Legal Aid Society, which represented Lewis, issued this statement Tuesday: “While there is no denying that Karina Vetrano’s death is tragic and that her family and friends suffered a great loss, every aspect of this case — from the police investigation to jury deliberations — was propelled by a desire to convict at all costs. This was done without any concern for Mr. Lewis’s Constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial. We will appeal this case to the Appellate Division to secure Mr. Lewis the justice that he deserves.”
A jury found Lewis guilty earlier this month on charges of first-degree murder, second-degree intentional murder, second-degree felony murder and first-degree sexual abuse. A first trial, held in November, ended with a hung jury.
Prosecutors made their case with two confessions by Lewis — one to police and the other to prosecutors — and DNA evidence, WABC reported.
“The defendant in this case has shown not an ounce of remorse for this heinous killing,” Chief Assistant District Attorney John M. Ryan said in a statement from the Queens District Attorney’s office. “It is my hope that this sentence gives the family some comfort knowing their loved one’s killer will never see freedom again.”
The defendant’s lawyers said the confessions were coerced and questioned the accuracy of the DNA evidence because it was found on Vetrano’s phone, neck and fingernails but nowhere else at the crime scene, WABC said.
Defense lawyers also argued that prosecutors withheld evidence that would have been favorable to Lewis and that juror misconduct allegedly occurred, but the judge denied those motions, WABC reported.
The statement from the DA’s office, citing trial testimony, said Lewis was angry that a neighbor was playing loud music when he encountered Vetrano around 6 p.m. on the running path in Spring Creek Park in Queens.
As she jogged past him, Lewis punched her in the face, pulled at her clothes and strangled her with his hands and dragged her body into the weeds, the statement said.