Photo Courtesy of Councilman Ulrich’s Office
Lt. John Russo (l.) and Councilman Eric Ulrich last Wednesday inside Council Chambers.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Local boy makes good, indeed.
City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) recently honored Howard Beach resident and City Police Department Lt. John Russo with a Council Proclamation for his work which led to the arrest of a suspect six months after the brutal murder of Karina Vetrano.
The 30-year-old beloved Howard Beach native was beaten, strangled, and sexually assaulted in the evening hours of Aug. 2 on her daily run inside Spring Creek Park. Last Wednesday, during a Council Stated meeting, Ulrich noted that Russo was instrumental in identifying the alleged perpetrator, Chanel Lewis, 20, who has been indicted on 13 counts of murder and sexual abuse.
“For many months, there was a profound sense of sorrow and grief that swept over not only Howard Beach, but all of New York,” Ulrich said. “We’re honoring a hometown hero. He is truly one of New York’s Finest and it’s because of him that we were able to make an arrest in this case, bring about some justice, and hopefully bring about some closure not only for the Vetrano family, but for the community, who also felt the pain that was caused as a result of this heinous crime.”
According to Ulrich, Russo spent six months poring over records until a name eventually emerged. With this new lead, detectives were able to obtain a DNA sample, linking Lewis to the murder.
“Karina’s picture was a picture my family and I saw in every store we went into [and] every block we drove down,” Russo said. “We were constantly reminded, just being in the neighborhood, of this unsolved murder. I’ve met people that I didn’t know telling me that they were nervous about letting their children out, and now that the case is solved, it’s a little more comfort for everyone.”
According to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, Lewis, who was ordered held without bail following his arraignment on murder charges on Sunday, Feb. 5, will be arraigned on the indictment at a later date in Queens Supreme Court.
“Thanks to the persistence of the hard-working detectives of the NYPD, assisted by members of my staff, the person allegedly responsible for her brutal murder finally has been brought to justice,” Brown said when Lewis was arraigned.
According to the charges, Vetrano was jogging alone in Spring Creek Park in Howard Beach at approximately 6 p.m. on Aug. 2 when she was attacked by Lewis who sexually abused and strangled her. Vetrano’s body was discovered by her father, Phil, and the police later that night lying in a marshy area, approximately 15 feet from a trail near 161st Avenue and 78th Street in the park.
Russo, who was raised in Maspeth and Middle Village, was honored last month by the Juniper Park Civic Association for his work on the Vetrano case. Ulrich also pointed out that during his career the 19-year NYPD veteran has received five awards for Exemplary Police Duties, was named Police Officer of the Year twice in 2000, and named Detective of the Year in 2002.