Residents describe 'suspicious' activity by suspect in murder of jogger at NYC retrial

Karina Vetrano, 30, was fatally strangled while jogging on Aug. 2, 2016.

"It was suspicious to wear a hood, it was warm out," Russo said on the witness stand. "He walked and looked at houses, stopped, looked around, it was very suspicious."

Russo said he followed the man — later identified as Lewis — for 45 minutes, with his then 4 and 8-year-old daughters in the backseat.

"I continued to follow him, or I attempted to," said Russo, who called 911, but continued to follow Lewis to a bank parking lot. “He'd backtrack on several blocks he was already on.”

Russo testified that his police training caused him to be suspicious of Lewis’ behavior.

"Based in my anti-crime training, burglars take measures to avoid being followed — the person I followed was doing the same thing," Russo testified.

The lieutenant said that he continued to monitor Lewis until other officers responded. Russo said that while he was following him, Lewis was calm, didn't run and wasn't carrying anything in his hands.

Lewis was not arrested.

Lewis’ first trial ended in a hung jury after 13 hours of deliberations, and a mistrial was declared in Nov. 2018. Lewis' attorneys contend that he did not commit the crime.

The day after Russo encountered Lewis, Howard Beach resident Angelo Gurino "saw a gentleman looking at my house and then walk towards 84th Street...toward the Vetrano house,” Guarino testified Thursday.

The man, later identified as Lewis, was wearing a white hooded sweatshirt, Gurino testified.

Guarino, who identified Lewis in court for the jurors, said he followed Lewis in his car and watched him for 10 minutes.

Police were dispatched and Lewis was questioned and released without charges.

"What made you suspicious of Lewis?" asked Assistant District Attorney Brad Leventhal.

"He walked up the side of my house then sat on the sidewalk...I called 911 and said he was looking at houses, told them his nationality. I saw something sitting next to him, may of been a crowbar, a stick or something I don’t know what it was," said Gurino. "Right now, he's sitting on the curb. He doesn't belong there."

During Gurino's 911 call, he told the dispatcher that he "saw the same person in the neighborhood yesterday," but didn’t elaborate to the jurors where or when he first spotted Lewis.

Six months after Vetrano's death, Lewis, then 20, was arrested. Lewis' DNA matched a sample from the crime scene, police said, and he allegedly made a video confession to authorities.