NEW YORK (1010 WINS/AP) -- A jury has found Chanel Lewis guilty on all counts for the 2016 murder of jogger Karina Vetrano.
Chanel Lewis, 22, was accused of killing Karina Vetrano as she ran on a park trail in Howard Beach, Queens, in August 2016. Prosecutors said Vetrano had been sexually abused and strangled. Her father discovered the body.
The closely watched case caused fear among women who run alone and baffled investigators, who for months were unable to find anyone who matched DNA that was found under the victim's fingernails as she fought back. The DNA also was found on her neck and phone.
"Jubilation. Justice. Justice has been served,'' the victim's father, Phil Vetrano, said to reporters while exiting court.
Robert Boyce, New York Police Department chief of detectives, said the break came after police went back through 911 calls and found one reporting a suspicious person in the area near the attack. Lewis was tested and linked to DNA found at the scene and on the victim, Boyce said.
In his taped confession, Lewis told police that he was upset with a neighbor and that when he came across Vetrano on a secluded section of a marshland park, he "just lost it." He said he beat and strangled her but did not molest her.
"This girl jogging ... and you know, one thing led to another," he told detectives. "Hitting her and stuff like that."
After hearing closing arguments that lasted over four hours the jury started deliberations around 4:30 pm on Monday. After about five hours, word came that they had found Lewis guilty on all counts.
Before the case was handed to the jury, a letter was sent to the prosecution, making claims that police originally suspected two white men and that the investigation was racially biased.
Lewis' lawyers raised questions about whether prosecutors withheld key pieces of evidence favorable to the defendant, but the judge allowed the case to proceed.
His lawyers say police initially suspected two white men in Vetrano's killing, and that authorities withheld information regarding a 'race-based dragnet' that collected samples from 360 men.
Lewis' lawyers say they received an anonymous letter, purported to be from a police officer, indicating that police were looking for 'two jacked up white guys from Howard Beach.'
“We think it’s a big deal that merits explanation at this point,” said Richard Joselson, the supervising attorney of the criminal appeals bureau of the Legal Aid Society.
Forensic experts have said that Lewis' DNA matched DNA found on Vetrano's neck, cellphone, and under her fingernails. Lewis also had a hand injury that a doctor said was consistent with punching someone.
The defense has argued that Lewis gave a coerced confession after 11 hours in custody and 4 hours in a police interrogation room.
Lewis was tried for the murder for the first time in November, with the trial ending with a hung jury.
Sentencing is scheduled for April 17.