QNS/File photos
In several statements to police, Chanel Lewis (at left) confessed in February to killing Karina Vetrano (at right) in a Howard Beach park last August.

For six months, those following the Karina Vetrano murder investigation wondered not only who the killer was, but also why someone could have brutally raped and strangled the young Howard Beach woman found dead in Spring Creek Park last August.

Some answers finally surfaced on Tuesday, April 18, as prosecutors released statements that Chanel Lewis — the young Brooklyn man arrested in February for allegedly killing Vetrano — made to detectives while he was in police custody.

The statements were revealed as Lewis, 20, was arraigned on a 13-count indictment charging him with first- and second-degree murder, first-degree aggravated sexual abuse and first-degree sexual abuse. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown.

Vetrano, 30, left her 84th Street home on the afternoon of Aug. 2, 2016, for her afternoon run but never returned home. Her father, Phil Vetrano, contacted police, and a search was started. Later that evening, Karina Vetrano’s body was found among the tall reeds of Spring Creek Park in the area of 161st Avenue and 78th Street; she had been beaten, raped and strangled to death.

In the months that followed, NYPD detectives combed over the area for evidence; genetic material was recovered from crime scene, and while a DNA profile of Vetrano’s killer was created, the profile did not match anyone listed in state or national criminal DNA databanks.

The case ran cold up until February, when police — acting on a lead — visited Lewis’ home on Essex Street in East New York on the morning of Feb. 2.

At first, according to transcripts of oral statements that Lewis made to police, Lewis told officers that he had been in Howard Beach in May of 2016 and “began walking around because it was nice out.” He denied loitering “in the weeds back there,” and agreed to provide police with a DNA sample to compare his genetic profile with the DNA profile recovered from the crime scene.

Detectives returned several days later and brought Lewis to the 107th Precinct stationhouse in Fresh Meadows. Early on the morning of Feb. 5, prosecutors said, Lewis made statements in which he allegedly confessed to murdering Vetrano.

Lewis allegedly said that he became aggravated on Aug. 2 after “a man came around” to his home and “played music and he brought around a lot of his friends.”

“I didn’t like that stuff, I like peace and quiet and so I would go roam the streets and walk around,” Lewis said. “Sometimes I would go to Howard Beach.”

Law enforcement sources said that Lewis allegedly told detectives he was in Spring Creek Park at about 5 p.m. on Aug. 2 and saw Vetrano running through the area.

“I was mad and I was walking on the trail listening to music. She was running toward me, and I just lost it,” Lewis allegedly told police. “She didn’t do anything, I was just mad at the time. I beat her to let my emotions out.”

Lewis then told detectives in detail the events that transpired: “I fought with her for about five minutes. She scratched my face. I hit her about five times and I knocked her out. Her teeth broke. I got madder and madder, and I strangled her. After that, there was a puddle of water and she fell into it. She drowned. Her whole face was in the puddle, face up.”

Afterward, Lewis allegedly said, he dragged Vetrano’s body by her hands, which he claimed caused her pants to come off.

“I left her in the weeds and I left through the Belt Parkway entrance,” Lewis purportedly said. “I went home and the people in my house noticed my hand and I told them that I fell in Gateway Mall Park. I never went back to Spring Creek Park after that.”

As he was being booked on Feb. 5, further statements noted, Lewis seemed to express remorse. He asked detectives to see a picture of Vetrano’s parents, and made a second request: “Tell my mom that I’m sorry.”

Lewis is being held without bail and is scheduled to return to court on July 13. The New York Daily News quoted a statement from the Legal Aid Society, which is representing Lewis, noting that their client pleaded not guilty to all charges in the indictment.


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