NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – On Monday night, a jury convicted a man of killing and sexually assaulting Karina Vetrano, the 30-year-old who went on a jog in 2016 and never returned home.
After less than five hours of deliberations, the jury delivered a guilty verdict on all counts, including first-degree murder and sexual assault.
The first trial ended in a hung jury. This time, the prosecution closed up any gaps in their case.
Jury foreman Brian Morrisey says the evidence was a slam dunk for a murder conviction. When he read the verdict, the courtroom, filled with Vetrano’s family and friends, erupted in cheers and applause, while the family of convicted Chanel Lewis remained silent.
Morrissey says he was moved after reading the verdict.
“I read it, and then I just heard the family. I never heard this before in the courtroom: An explosion of joy,” Morrissey said. “My voice is breaking because of the emotion, the moment really got me.”
Morrisey says while two jurors were initially on the fence about the sex abuse charges against Lewis, there were no holdouts or murder charges.
Morrissey says while two jurors were initially on the fence about the sex abuse charges against Lewis, there were no holdouts on the murder charges.
“What was it that was really the most damning evidence?” CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez asked.
“Two things. The confession, it wasn’t coerced. DNA. DNA was so overwhelming,” Morrissey said.
Behind The Lens: Hazel Sanchez On Covering The Trial
“I feel like a weight has been lifted,” said Karina’s father Philip Vetrano.
“You woke up with a different feeling?” Sanchez asked.
“I woke up with a different feeling,” he said.
Just hours after the verdict, he was back at Spring Creek Park in Howard Beach, where he discovered his daughter’s body in August 2016. A butterfly made of stones and an angel and candles sit at the site, a place where the still-grieving father returns every morning.
“It’s the only place I could go to get peace. It may seem strange because right where I’m sitting, I found here, but I think it’s because it’s the only place where I have any control,” he said.
Lewis’ family has not spoken since the verdict.
His defense team plans to appeal, saying the 22-year-old East New York man didn’t get a fair trial after a judge denied a request for a hearing about an 11th hour anonymous letter sent to Lewis’ lawyers that claimed prosecutors withheld evidence.
In a statement, the defense wrote “exculpatory information was reported and confirmed to the defense that could have exonerated Mr. Lewis, yet the court declined even to allow exploration of the issue.”
Morrissey says the letter wouldn’t have changed his mind. He’s hoping the Vetranos can finally feel a little bit of closure.
“We don’t know what the rest of our life is going to be like, but it’s a good feeling to know that now we can move forward,” Phil Vetrano said.
Chanel Lewis faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He’ll be sentenced April 17th.