Suspected Killer in Karina Vetrano Slaying Arraigned on Murder, Sex Abuse Charges | NBC New York

Chief Investigative Reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

Suspected Killer in Karina Vetrano Slaying Arraigned on Murder, Sex Abuse Charges



    (Published Tuesday, April 18, 2017)

    What to Know

    • Chanel Lewis, 20, of East New York, was arraigned Tuesday on a 13-count indictment related to the killing of Karina Vetrano

    • Lewis pleaded not guilty to the murder and sexual abuse charges in the death of Vetrano, found in a marsh near her Howard Beach home

    • Vetrano's strangulation death shocked the city; her body was found by her father and police hours after she went missing

    The 20-year-old Brooklyn man accused of killing Queens woman Karina Vetrano as she jogged through a park trail near her home last summer has pleaded not guilty to murder and sex abuse charges in the case. 

    Chanel Lewis of East New York was arraigned in Queens Supreme Court Tuesday on four counts of first-degree murder, five counts of second-degree murder, two counts of first-degree aggravated sexual abuse and two counts of first-degree sexual abuse.

    Prosecutors said during the hearing that Lewis told police he "lost it" and strangled Vetrano during a chance encounter. 

    Lewis was remanded back to jail. He's set to return to court on July 13. 

    The Legal Aid Society, which is representing Lewis, said the Queens District Attorney's office must now begin to disclose and turn over all evidence related to the prosecution of the case.

    "Our defense team looks forward to closely reviewing all case documents during this process," the Legal Aid Society said in a statement. 

    If convicted, Lewis faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

    Both Vetrano's and Lewis' families were in the courtroom but declined to speak to reporters afterward. Newsday reports the victim's mother, Catherine Vetrano, showed no visible emotion in court. 

    Rev. Kevin McCall, who works with the National Action Network, says he has visited Lewis in jail. 

    "He is very frightened... he wants to be able to know what evidence they could have, because he knows he's innocent," he said. 

    Vetrano's Aug. 2, 2016 death shocked the city, and it stayed in the spotlight for weeks, driven by her father Phil's relentless search for her killer.

    Police arrested Lewis in early February. They said evidence included genetic material found under the 30-year-old Vetrano's fingernails and on her phone and neck.

    Police officials also said Lewis made detailed, incriminating statements to detectives. According to police sources, Lewis twice confessed on video -- once with the NYPD and the other time during an interview with the Queens district attorney's office.

    Lewis' family has insisted he is innocent.

    "He's just a good guy, a wonderful guy, don't interfere with anybody," said his father, Richard Lewis, after his son's arrest. "He's never had that problem in the 20 years I've had him in my world."

    Also Tuesday, a suspect in the killing of another New York City woman who was jogging near her mother's home was arraigned in Massachusetts. Angelo Colon-Ortiz pleaded not guilty to assault and attempted rape charges in the death of Vanessa Marcotte, a Google employee who lived in New York City. Marcotte was killed Aug. 7, 2016, just days after Vetrano's body was discovered; police at the time said they would look into a possible connection between the slayings of the two women joggers but soon determined they were not related. 

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