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Queens Chronicle

Brooklyn man charged with murder of Karina Vetrano

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Posted: Saturday, February 4, 2017 8:35 pm

A suspect in connection with the murder of Karina Vetrano has been arrested, a little more than six months after the Howard Beach jogger was found dead in Spring Creek Park, police said.

He's been identified as 20-year-old Chanel Lewis of East New York. 

"This is a great day for justice in New York City," Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said Sunday at the 106th Precinct. 

Lewis lives with his mother at a public housing project in Brooklyn. He is expected to be charged with second-degree murder, which carries a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

He did not address reporters on his way out of the 107th Precinct, the headquarters for Patrol Borough Queens South, Sunday afternoon.

Lewis does not have a criminal history but has been issued summonses for a "variety of reasons" near Spring Creek Park, Boyce said. A resident living near the park called 911 in May reporting him as a "suspicious person." 

Officers first spoke to Lewis on Feb. 2, two days before his arrest. While talking to investigators, Boyce said, Lewis made several incriminating remarks. Cops took DNA from him, which matched that found under Vetrano's fingernails.

Vetrano, 30, reportedly fought against her attacker with her final breath.

"Karina helped us identify this person," the chief said. 

The Howard Beach resident was sexually assaulted and strangled to death Aug. 2 shortly after setting out on a jog.

“This is truly a very sad case in which a beautiful and talented young woman senselessly lost her life," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a Sunday statement. "Thanks, however, to the persistence of the hard-working detectives of the NYPD, assisted by members of my staff, the person allegedly responsible for her brutal murder finally has been brought to justice. At this time he is being charged with intentional murder in the second degree, although the investigation is continuing and a grand jury may consider additional criminal charges when the case is presented to them.”

Lewis is being represented by attorneys with The Legal Aid Society, which in a Monday statement said, "We have a full defense team working on this case, including our DNA unit dedicated to scrutinizing the evidence collected by local authorities.

"We are spending this critical time getting to know our client and his family, and reviewing all the facts associated with this case," the statement continued. "We caution everyone – including the media – not to rush to immediate judgment. As our judicial system affords, Mr. Lewis is entitled to fairness and due process.”

On Feb. 2, the Vetrano family and lawmakers stood near where her body was found to call on the state to authorize familial DNA testing, which looks for relatives of the actual perpetrator in criminal databases, providing investigators with leads to who they're looking for.

This is a developing story. Please check with qchron.com for further details as they become available.

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