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Queens Chronicle

Chanel Lewis gets life without parole for killing Karina Vetrano

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Posted: Tuesday, April 23, 2019 11:26 am

Chanel Lewis was sentenced today, April 23, to both life in prison without parole and 25 years to life for the August 2016 murder of Howard Beach woman Karina Vetrano.

In a case that has riveted Queens since the day of the killing, Lewis, 22, was found guilty on April 1 of first-degree murder and sexual assault in Vetrano’s slaying. She had been killed while jogging in Spring Creek Park on Aug. 2, 2016.

The case took many twists and turns. It was months before Lewis was charged, after police said a DNA test put him at the scene. He was tried but the case ended in a mistrial, called swiftly by the judge after members of the jury said they could not reach agreement. The case was retried and Lewis was found guilty after only five hours of deliberations.

Later a juror came forward alleging misconduct on the panel. A hearing was held yesterday on the claim, and the judge dismissed it, setting sentencing for today, Tuesday.

Vetrano’s murder and the subsequent investigation and trials drew widespread attention from both the public and the media. Howard Beach is a close-knit community. The Vetrano family is well-known, with Karina’s father, Phil, being a retired firefighter with many friends in the law enforcement community. He himself found her body near a trail in the park where the two often jogged together. 

Karina, a speech pathologist, was a highly attractive woman who posted many photos of herself online and wrote deeply personal thoughts on a blog, still available on the internet. Her slaying at age 30 prompted widespread rumor-mongering in the community as to who was behind it, which continues to this day. 

The arrest of Lewis, a black man from a nearby neighborhood in Brooklyn, caused some to see a racial element in the case. Some charged that his confession was false, coerced by police. But in the end, the jury accepted the prosecutors' case.

This is only an initial report. Check back here and see Thursday’s Queens Chronicle for stories of more depth on the case.

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