-- The Brooklyn man accused of murdering Queens jogger Karina Vetrano allegedly told New York City police detectives he “just lost it” and got “madder and madder and I strangled her” after he encountered the 30-year-old on a jogging path.
Vetrano “didn’t do anything,” the suspect, 20-year-old Chanel Lewis, told police. “I was just mad at the time. I beat her to let my emotions out. I never really meant to hurt her, it just happened.” The never-before-heard details of Vetrano’s death came from statements Lewis gave to police that prosecutors read aloud during his arraignment today in Queens.
Vetrano was fatally strangled on Aug. 2, 2016, while jogging alone in Howard Beach in the borough of Queens, on a path where she and her father often ran together.
According to the account Lewis gave detectives and read in court, Lewis fought with Vetrano for about five minutes. Lewis said she scratched his face and that he hit her five times, breaking her teeth and knocking her out, prosecutors said.
Lewis said he got “madder and madder and I strangled her” before she fell into a puddle and drowned, prosecutors said.
Lewis later told his mother he fell when she asked about the scratches on his face, prosecutors said. He asked police to tell his mother he was sorry, prosecutors said.
Lewis was ordered held and will return to court in July.
Lewis was arrested in February for second-degree murder in connection with Vetrano's death and pleaded not guilty. Earlier this month, a Queens County grand jury returned a 13-count indictment charging Lewis with four counts of first-degree murder; five counts of second-degree murder; two counts of first-degree aggravated sexual abuse and two counts of first-degree sexual abuse.
The Legal Aid Society, which is representing Lewis, said in a statement, “Today, Chanel Lewis officially pleaded not guilty to all charges of the indictment. Under New York State law, the Queens District Attorney's Office must now begin to disclose and turn over all evidence related to the prosecution of this case. Our defense team looks forward to closely reviewing all case documents during this process.”
If convicted, Lewis faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Lewis has been held without bail since his February arrest.
Lewis was first approached by police about the murder the week before his arrest, police said. He gave a voluntary DNA sample, which matched DNA recovered from the crime scene, police said, and he was arrested for second-degree murder.
Police investigating Vetrano's death had received over 250 leads and taken 600 DNA samples by the time a suspect was arrested.
The New York City Council honored New York Police Department Lt. John Russo earlier this month for his "instrumental role in cracking the case."
"Connecting the dots, Lt. John Russo of the 106th Precinct spent six months poring through records, eventually finding the suspect," the New York City Council said.