Judge OKs DNA evidence in Karina Vetrano murder trial

A judge rules forensic evidence linking Chanel Lewis, the accused killer of Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano, can be presented at trial.
By Bill Parry

There were two significant developments in the pretrial hearings of Chanel Lewis, 21, the Brooklyn man accused of murdering and sexually abusing Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano in August 2016.

Queens Supreme Court Justice Michael Aloise denied a motion by the defense related to DNA analysis Sept. 20.

Lewis’ lawyer claimed DNA detail linking Lewis to the killing was based on the medical examiner’s use of technology not generally accepted in the scientific community. Aloise ruled the software used by the medical examiner was “not new, novel or experimental” and the information will be allowed to be submitted as evidence at trial, according to the court record.

Also stated on the record in court by Assistant Queens District Attorney Brad Leventhal was that pornography, as well as web searches for the phrase “forcible rape” were found on Lewis’ cell phone that was seized by police as possible evidence. Leventhal said the phone evidence is an indication of a sexual motive for the crime, while the defense wants to block the material.

The judge will decide on the admissibility of the evidence Oct. 18 and set Oct. 29 for jury selection.

Vetrano, 30, was murdered as she jogged in Spring Creek Park near her Howard Beach home on the afternoon of Aug. 2, 2016. After an NYPD investigation that lasted more than six months, Lewis was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in February 2017.

Lewis allegedly confessed to killing her after telling investigators he strangled and beat Vetrano because he “just lost it,” according to prosecutors.

If convicted, Lewis faces 25 years to life in prison, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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