New York City

‘He Choked Her Until She Died, Alone, Scared': Opening Statements Wrap Up in Retrial for Karina Vetrano's Accused Killer

On Monday, prosecutors described in detail how Vetrano was sexually abused and strangled. Her father found her body

What to Know

  • The retrial for the man accused of killing Karina Vetrano while she was out for a jog in Queens more than 2 years ago began Monday
  • Chanel Lewis is accused of killing the 30-year-old as she ran on a park trail in Howard Beach, Queens, in August 2016
  • A judge declared a mistrial last November when jurors couldn’t agree on a verdict

Opening statements wrapped up Monday in the retrial of a man accused of killing a woman who was attacked while running near her family's New York City home.

Chanel Lewis, 22, is accused of killing 30-year-old Karina Vetrano as she ran on a park trail in Howard Beach, Queens, in August 2016. Prosecutors said Vetrano had been sexually abused. Her father discovered the body.

During opening statements on Monday, Assistant District Attorney Brad Leventhal claimed Lewis "choked her until she couldn't struggle anymore." 

"He squeezed and he squeezed and he squeezed," Leventhal said. "He choked her until she couldn't resist anymore. He choked her until she couldn't struggle anymore. He choked her until she couldn't breathe anymore. He choked her until she died, alone, scared."

judge declared a mistrial last November when jurors couldn’t agree on a verdict. The jury for the retrial was selected last week.

Despite DNA evidence that authorities said linked Lewis to the scene and a taped confession, the first trial ended in a hung jury in November. Unlike the first trial, Vetrano's mother is expected to testify against Lewis.

On Monday, the defense returned to its previous arguments, saying the confession was coerced by detectives who wore Lewis down until he finally gave them what they wanted, "a story," and that the DNA evidence was suspect.

"This awful crime was not committed by that young man," said defense attorney Jen Cheung. "Chanel did not murder Karina. He did not sexually assault her either. Ladies and gentlemen, you won't hear evidence linking Chanel to a sexual assault. You won't see Chanel's blood or body fluid, shoeprints or hair at the crime scene. You won't see his fingerprints at the crime scene either."

Vetrano was brutally strangled and sexually assaulted when jogging alone in Spring Creek Park, just blocks away from home.

Seven months later, the Brooklyn man was arrested and charged after being linked through DNA evidence found under Vetrano’s nails.

The prosecution’s case during Lewis' first trial built on the alleged DNA and Lewis’ confession.

However, the defense has said the mistrial went on to show that there were issues with the DNA, including quantity and quality.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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