NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — They buried their daughter and sat through a murder trial twice, but on Monday night Karina Vetrano‘s parents had their prayers answered.
A jury convicted a man of killing and sexually assaulting the 30-year-old, who went on a jog in 2016 and never returned home, CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported.
After less than five hours of deliberations, the jury delivered a guilty verdict on all counts, including first-degree murder and sexual assault. The courtroom, filled with Vetrano’s family and friends, erupted in cheers and applause, while the family of convicted Chanel Lewis remained silent.
The thunderous reaction from the Vetrano side of the courtroom was unmistakable when the jurors delivered a guilty verdict on each of the four counts against Lewis. The 22-year-old was retried after the first court case ended in a hung jury.
Lewis is now a convicted murder, found guilty of killing Vetrano while she was out for a jog near her Howard Beach home in 2016.
Lewis didn’t react to the verdict.
Vetrano’s family and friends were elated to hear the news. Her parents, Kathy and Phillip, said a few words as they left the courtroom.
“Thank you, Jesus,” Kathy Vetrano said.
“Jubilation,” Phillip Vetrano added.
One important thing to note: earlier after the closing arguments the jury had asked to see the video of Lewis’ confession again. But there was a technical problem with the audio/visual equipment in the courtroom. At that time, the judge sent them to dinner instead while the problem could be resolved.
However, after that dinner break the jury sent a note saying they no longer needed to watch the video and instead had their verdict.
The jury was made up of seven women and five men. The judge thanked them for their service.
Lewis’ attorney said they plan to appeal. His sentencing is set for April 17.
The retrial featured two weeks of testimony, including from Vetrano’s parents. On Monday, the prosecution and defense spent hours on closing arguments.
The Queens assistant district attorney showed Karina’s last selfie, compared with her badly beaten body and highlighted DNA evidence, linking Lewis.
“Science determined that it was his profile on Karina’s neck. Science determined that it was his profile on her phone. And science detected that it was his DNA under her fingernails,” prosecutor Brad Leventhal said.
Lewis’ defense, however, urged the jury to be skeptical, and said the forensic scientist’s process was flawed.
“[Investigators] took no elimination samples from anyone, including people at the scene,” defense attorney Robert Moeller said Monday. “You can see from the evidence things that could have been done weren’t done.”
Web Extra: Defense Attorney Robert Moeller Delivers Closing Arguments
The prosecutor showed that Lewis’ phone was near the scene of the crime and replayed confessions.
The defense contended the confession was coerced and the statements didn’t match up.
“He says he hit her five times with both hands,” said Moeller. “Well, common sense tells you, based on the injuries that you see in those photographs, that she was beaten from head to toe and it was more than five or six punches to the face.”
The argument came after an anonymous letter, allegedly written by an NYPD detective, was sent to the defense Friday, claiming prosecutors withheld vital evidence about the investigation. The letter said police were initially “looking for two jacked up white guys who are from Howard Beach” but only took DNA swabs from African American men.
On Monday, the judge denied a request from the defense asking for a hearing on the letter.
The NYPD said over the last two years it “already exhaustively examined the issues in this anonymous, 11th-hour letter, a missive riddled with falsehoods and inaccuracies.”