NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — People who know Chanel Lewis, the suspect who has now been charged in the murder of jogger Karina Vetrano, were in shock Sunday.
As CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported, among those who could not believe the allegations is Lewis’ father.
“That’s what they’re saying, but things are far more than that – far more – and that’s not him,” the suspect’s father, Richard Lewis, said on the steps of the courthouse in Queens.
Richard Lewis said there is no way he can believe his son, 20, killed Vetrano, 30.
“He has never done anything — nothing in his whole life,” Richard Lewis said. “He wouldn’t have done it, because we live in an area where these people do a lot of things — a lot of hurt — and try to push it on other people, and he wouldn’t have.”
Detectives first approached the unemployed 20-year-old suspected Thursday – six months to the day after he allegedly killed the victim while she was out jogging alone in Spring Creek Park. Investigators said he voluntarily gave a DNA sample that came back a match on Saturday.
“Karina helped us identify this person,” said NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce. “She had the DNA under her nails, she had touch DNA on her back and there was more DNA on the cell phone. That’s how we were able to bring the profile up and that’s how we made the link.”
Boyce said it was not clear whether Lewis was the person in a sketch that was released in late August. But a break in the case was actually a Howard Beach neighbor’s 911 call about Lewis in May three months before the crime.
“We have a member of the community called, and it was not a complaint — it was a suspicious person — and then he was identified by members of the 106th Precinct,” Boyce said.
People on Essex Street in East New York, Brooklyn were stunned to learn the accused killer lived among them in the red house where he was arrested.
“It’s scary. It’s frightening,” said neighbor Ann Spencer. “It’s right in your neighborhood — directly across the street.”
“I was very shocked, you know, because you never know, you never know,” said neighbor Lorette Lewis. “It could have been me that could have been killed.”
While Lewis has no criminal history, he did get three summonses for acting suspiciously. Detectives painstakingly went through thousands of tickets, 250 tips, and finally found their mystery man.
“This was a huge undertaking,” said police expert Joseph Giacalone. “I don’t lnow if people really understand the complexity of this, and the massive amount of data that had to be combed through to come up with this needle in a haystack.”
“They left no stone unturned in during the course of this investigation, and they’ve done it in a professional and very persistent manner,” said Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown.
Lewis faces a possible prison sentence of 25 years to life if convicted.