Man Guilty in Slaying, Sex Assault of N.Y.C. Jogger Whose Father Found Her Body in Weeds
Chanel Lewis was convicted after being tried a second time for the 2016 killing of Karina Vetrano
A man accused of murdering a New York City jogger in 2016 was convicted Monday evening, and now faces life in prison without the possibility for parole when he is sentenced in two weeks, PEOPLE confirms.
Jurors rendered their verdict after five hours of deliberation, finding Chanel Lewis, 22, guilty of sexually abusing and then strangling Karina Vetrano, 30, while she went jogging on a trail in the Howard Beach section of Queens, according to a statement from prosecutors.
Lewis was arrested in early 2017 — six months after Vetrano’s battered body was found by her father, Phil, about a dozen feet from the trail she jogged daily.
The father usually accompanied his daughter on their runs, but did not the evening of August 2, 2016. He went searching for her after she failed to return from her run.
Ask for his reaction as he left court late Monday, Phil Vetrano told reporters, “Jubilation,” adding that “justice has been served… He’s going to die in jail.”
Lewis was first tried for his crimes late last year. However, the judge hearing the case declared a mistrial after jurors said they could not agree on a verdict.
Queens Chief Assistant District Attorney John Ryan called the case “horrifying” in the statement issued after the verdict.
“A vibrant, young woman’s life came to an abrupt and violent end,” Ryan said. “Ms. Vetrano’s death was brutal. She was pulled from a park pathway, sexually assaulted, and in her last moments of life, she gasped for air as the defendant’s hands tightened around her neck.”
The statement continued: “For nearly six long months, this woman’s murder remained a mystery. But thanks to the continued hard work and persistence of detectives with the NYPD — assisted by members of the Queens District Attorney’s Office — a suspect was apprehended.”
Ryan said that it is his hope the verdict, coming after three weeks of testimony, “will give the family of the victim some closure and comfort knowing her killer will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.”
Phil Vetrano did not return PEOPLE’s calls for comment Tuesday.
Jurors convicted Lewis on all counts: first-degree murder, second-degree intentional murder, second-degree felony murder and first-degree sexual abuse.
At trial, prosecutors presented evidence showing Lewis’ DNA was recovered from under Vetrano’s fingernails.
Police had long maintained Vetrano fought for her life, and have since credited her will to live with helping them identify a suspect.
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Lewis’ defense team argued their client’s confession to police was coerced, and said that Vetrano’s father tainted evidence at the scene. They also alleged that investigators ignored crucial evidence, which they claimed suggested two other men may have been behind the vicious murder.
Lewis’ lawyers could not be reached for comment and it was not clear if Lewis plans to appeal.