The case of

Karina Anne Vetrano

Victim

Karina Anne Vetrano

Victim Race

Caucasian

Victim Date of Birth

1986-07-12

Victim Age

30

Date Reported

2015-09-29

Date of Death

2016-08-02

Case Status

Closed

Incident Location

Queens, New York, USA

Body Location

Queens, New York, USA

Date of Conviction

April, 2019

Body Discovered Date

2016-08-02

Murderer

Chanel Lewis

Karina Vetrano and Her Family

Karina Anne Vetrano was born in New York City on July 12, 1986. She was a very active young woman with a penchant for exercise and sports, as well as writing and acting.

She was the eldest of two siblings, and with her parents, Phil and Cathie Vetrano, lived a fairly normal and quiet life in New York.

Karina was very close to her father, Phil Vetrano, with whom she had a very trusting relationship from an early age. As she grew up, their father-daughter relationship grew stronger, especially after her mother was diagnosed with cancer.

Despite everything, Karina’s mother was able to win the battle against cancer and together as a family, they overcame the bad time they had lived through with the disease.

Karina Vetrano’s father worked in the New York Fire Department and was one of the first to arrive to help the wounded on the day of the 9/11 attack. Karina always showed great pride and admiration for her father.

Karina finished high school at Archbishop Molloy High School and then attended St. John’s University in New York and majored in speech therapy. Her family was very important to Karina, so even though she was already independent and living on her own, she moved close to her parents’ home.

After graduating from college, she got two jobs, one in Manhattan working as a speech pathologist for children with autism and another in a restaurant. In addition, she loved sports and social media, so she used to share her exercise routines through it all, gaining a significant amount of followers.

She also had a blog on the internet where she wrote about her desire to travel and other topics. She once acted for a short film directed by one of her friends in 2013, inspired by one of her writings, Paradox.

On August 2, 2016, 30-year-old Karina Vetrano was waiting for her father to go for a run near their house every day; however, that day, Phil could not accompany her because he had a back injury and did not feel in good condition to do so.

Karina went out alone to run at 5 p.m. in Spring Creek Park, not knowing that she would not return home and would lose her life.

The Tireless Search to Find Her

Karina Vetrano used to go jogging every day with her dad near her house. This was a regular routine that she did with her father and that she even shared through her networks telling about her exercise habits.

On August 2, 2016 Karina expected to go running with Phil as usual, however, her father was not feeling well, he had a painful back injury that prevented him from going running with her.

Her father, worried about her, tried to convince her not to go running alone, however, Karina told him that she wanted to clear her mind, since she had just finished with her boyfriend.

At approximately 5:00 p.m., Karina began her daily run through Spring Creek Park. During the ride, it was learned that Karina was sending some text messages to a friend, however, the friend stated that she suddenly stopped responding, which was unusual for Karina.

In view of the fact that Karina stopped responding to her messages, her friend continued to insist by sending more messages, but she did not respond. While this was going on, Karina Vetrano’s father Phil was doing the same thing, as it had been much longer than it usually took to make the drive they did every day.

Phil sent several messages and made several calls to Karina’s phone, however, she never answered. According to her father, she was supposed to be back in an hour, but it had been over 2 hours and Karina had not shown up.

Karina’s mother Cathie and her siblings also tried to reach her by calling her phone, but there was no answer either. Although Phil was now a retired firefighter, he had several contacts within the NYPD, including the chief of the department who was his friend, called him to tell him what had happened and Karina was immediately declared a missing person.

A search party was immediately organized, in which both members of the NYPD and community volunteers began canvassing neighboring sections.

Karina Vetrano’s parents were very worried about her, they thought she may have had an accident while walking through Spring Creek Park and needed medical attention, however, the outcome of the search ended in terrible news for the family.

At approximately 11 p.m. on August 2, 2016 during the organized search, Phil Vetrano began calling her cell phone again and heard her phone ring. Guided by the sound, he walked to the location where he found Karina’s lifeless body.

Karina’s body was face down and half naked in a swampy area about 4 meters from the road, far from the place where she used to run. The father got her among the tall grass of the place, which some neighbors had complained about weeks before, since it was not possible to walk in that area, making it a desolate zone.

Compelling Evidence

After Phil found Karina’s lifeless body in the brush, police officers arrived at the crime scene. Karina was indeed face down, had no pants on and her bra was up, exposing her breasts.

In addition, she showed several scratches and injuries on her arms, everything seemed to indicate that Karina had been sexually assaulted and that she had engaged in a ferocious fight, in which she had tried to defend herself against her attacker.

Police were able to take several DNA samples from the scene, from Karina’s fingernails and from other parts of her body. They also found a used condom a few meters from where her body was found.

While the murder investigators were analyzing the DNA evidence, Karina’s parents created a gofundme account in order to collect money and offer it as a reward to anyone who could provide information about their daughter’s killer.

The police also offered a $10,000 reward in exchange for clues or information that would help them capture those involved.

Karina’s parents held a press conference, which was broadcast by ABC News, CBS News and Fox News, among other media outlets. During her message, Cathie Vetrano addressed the killer directly, telling him that he was an evil person and that the entire community was looking for him.

Although they had several DNA samples taken from the crime scene, they spent months comparing them with those of some criminals in the NYPD records, however, there were no successful results for potential suspects.

The murder investigators interviewed all the men who somehow surrounded Karina, among those friends and co-workers, including her ex-boyfriend. However, none of them showed any signs of having anything to do with the murder and had alibis that could be verified.

After analyzing over 600 DNA samples and more than 1500 investigative reports, the NYPD found a match 6 months after the murder. Following a DNA swab, Chanel Lewis was arrested as a suspect in the murder of Karina Vetrano.

Not only did Chanel Lewis’ DNA match the DNA found at the crime scene, but a neighbor in the area said that a few days earlier, a man was hanging around the area and confirmed it was him after police showed him his photo.

After racial profiling, it was found that although Lewis had not been incarcerated, he had several complaints against him for urinating in public places and peeping through windows in the area.

After an interrogation of more than 4 hours, Chanel Lewis confessed how he murdered Karina Vetrano.

The Brutal Murder

On August 2, 2016, while Karina Vetrano was jogging through Spring Creek Park, Chanel Lewis came out of his house after getting into an argument with a neighbor over loud music.

Lewis left the scene in a rage after the fight, and as he was walking, he saw Karina jogging several feet away. Karina was looking at her cell phone, Lewis approached her and attacked her from behind.

Lewis was so angry that he started hitting her very hard in the face while Karina used all her strength to defend herself. As they fought with each other, they ended up in the swampy area where Karina’s body was found.

While there, Lewis raped her. While struggling with him, Karina broke her teeth, trying to bite him. Then, as Lewis himself recounts during his interrogation, he put his hands around Karina’s neck and squeezed so hard that he strangled her.

After that, he ran away. Upon arriving home, Chanel Lewis told his father that he had been attacked by a man, and went to the hospital, but no one asked him about his injuries.

Suspect or Convicted Killer Details

Chanel Lewis had a criminal record that did not help his defense; although he was never arrested, police records showed several complaints made by neighbors accusing him of peeping into homes and urinating in public.

Some investigations revealed that as a teenager, Lewis told one of his teachers that he hated women and wanted to stab girls.

Chanel’s father was the one who took him to the hospital on the day of the murder; however, he said he had no idea what his son had done. Chanel was also found to be mentally handicapped and had difficulty expressing himself.

Trial

The trial began on November 5, 2018. Chanel’s family claimed he was innocent, while his defense attorneys said that DNA evidence taken by the police was tainted.

Considering that he was an African-American man and suffered from a mental disability, many labeled his accusation as a case of racism. There was even an online petition for his release, which raised more than 30,000 petitions.

The murder trial was mistreated because the jury disagreed with its decision. The next trial was held in March 2019, during which they presented Chanel Lewis’ phone records as evidence.

It showed that days before, Chanel had done several internet searches about arraignment readings, and consequences for a felony, among other related topics.

They also found on her phone photos of Karina that she had downloaded from her networks and a photo of the crime scene that she saved from a news website.

This jury found that there was sufficient exculpatory evidence so Chanel Lewis, 20, was found guilty on April 1, 2019 on two counts of second-degree murder, one count of first-degree murder plus one count of sexual abuse.

Verdict

Although sentencing had been scheduled for April 17, Lewis was finally sentenced on April 23, 2019, to life in prison without parole for the murder of Karina Anne Vetrano.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who found Karina Vetrano?

Karina Vetrano’s lifeless body was found by her own father, Phil Vetrano, on August 2, 2016.

How did they catch Chanel Lewis?

Chanel Lewis was caught thanks to DNA matches with samples taken from Karina Vetrano’s body and the crime scene.

How did Karina Vetrano die?

Karina Vetrano was beaten, raped and strangled.

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