Karina Vetrano was murdered in Spring Creek Park
on Aug. 2, 2016.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Prosecutors and defense counsel delivered high-octane opening statements as the Karina Vetrano murder trial began this week in Queens Criminal Court in Kew Gardens.
Brad Leventhal, deputy executive assistant district attorney for Major Crimes, delivered an impassioned, nearly two-hour introductory argument on Monday morning in which he accused Chanel Lewis, 22, of strangling Vetrano, 30, “until she was dead” on Aug. 2, 2016, in Spring Creek Park.
“He placed his hands around her neck and he squeezed and he squeezed,” Leventhal said, according to the New York Post.
The prosecution also presented enlarged graphic photos of Vetrano’s lifeless body lying face-down with her black running shorts pulled down around her thighs.
“She fought for her life. She tried to get away but he overpowered her,” Leventhal said of the struggle between Lewis
Leventhal also promised the jury to present at trial the defendant’s videotaped confession and DNA evidence culled from Vetrano’s body and cell phone which places Lewis at the scene and proves that he alone committed the savage crime that has rocked the Howard Beach community.
“The evidence in this case is overwhelming,” the prosecutor said.
In its opening arguments, Lewis’s Legal Aid defense team claimed that the confession was coerced by City Police detectives desperate for a suspect after coming up dry six months into the investigation. Attorney Jenny Cheung also characterized the DNA evidence as dubious at best.
Lewis stands accused of sexually abusing and strangling Vetrano as she jogged in the federal park near her home. The East New York man was arrested in February 2017 and formally indicted two months later.