NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Monday was the first day of the retrial of a man accused of killing a Queens woman while she was out running.
This time around, it’s around it’s an older jury and Vetrano’s mother is scheduled to testify.
Cathy Vetrano walked out of court Monday afternoon alongside supporters, preparing to soon relive the day of her daughter’s murder in August of 2016.
Web Extra: Prosecutor Brad Leventhal Outlines DA’s Case In Opening Statements
Absent was Karina Vetrano’s father Phil, but in the two hour opening statement, the assistant district attorney detailed how he found his 30-year-old daughter’s body in Spring Creek Park in Howard Beach.
“He did break her teeth. He told investigators that he placed his hands around her neck and that ‘finished her off,’ his words, he finished her off by strangling her to death,” said Assistant Queens District Attorney Brad Leventhal.
Lewis sat in court in a suit and bow tie, looking back to his mother who was watching with family. Prosecutors say he didn’t know Vetrano but he was angry about a loud neighbor when he went to Spring Creek Park and crossed paths with Vetrano, who was jogging.
“This young woman, full of life, was merely 30 years old, when her life was stolen from her by the man who sits in this courtroom at that table over here. She was beaten, she was strangled, she was sexually abused by the defendant, Chanel Lewis,” Assistant Queens District Attorney Brad Leventhal said Monday. “This is a crime of opportunity, this was a crime of random, senseless violence. Karina Vetrano is dead because she was unlucky enough and misfortunate enough to find herself in a secluded, isolated location with this defendant.”
Prosecutors say he confessed twice to attacking and raping the woman after being picked up in 2017, but the defense argued it was coerced.
“After spending 12 hours isolated, alone and scared, and after continuously telling police I do not want to talk, I don’t know anything, Chanel finally gave police what they wanted: A story,” said defense attorney Jenny Cheung.
The prosecution will again show DNA evidence linking Lewis to DNA found on Vetrano’s neck, fingernails and phone. The defense told jurors it doesn’t prove Lewis is guilty.
“You won’t see Chanel’s blood or body fluid, shoe prints or hair at the crime scene,” Cheung said. “You won’t see his fingerprints at the crime scene either.”
The first witness, a detective, took the stand after opening statements.
The trial resumes Tuesday morning.
Lewis’ first trial ended in a mistrial last November after the jury could not reach a consensus.