By Katherine Lam
Published March 20, 2019
Catherine and Phil Vetrano took the stand in court to testify in the retrial of Chanel Lewis, who is accused of sexually assaulting and strangling Vetrano when she was jogging near her family’s Howard Beach home in August 2016.
Lewis’ first trial ended in a hung jury in November.
On Tuesday, Catherine Vetrano recalled how her daughter was “glad” to see her on August 2, 2016 — the last time she would see Karina alive, New York Daily News reported. Catherine said she had just returned from the hospital following a surgical procedure.
“She was glad to see me," Catherine said in court. “She had wanted to visit me in the hospital the night before, but I didn’t want her taking the train home at night from the city.”
Catherine said she and her daughter talked, kissed and hugged before the 30-year-old went out for a run.
“She appeared beautiful as always,” Catherine said of her daughter.
She said a while later, her husband became worried when Karina didn’t answer his phone calls.
"He told me Karina had gone out running and he was trying to call her and she was not answering the phone after several calls...he said he was going out to go see where she was,” she said.
Later that night, Phil Vetrano and police officers discovered Vetrano’s body about 15 feet from the jogging path in marshland near their home.
“I just remember, I was screaming in the streets," Catherine recalled about the moment she found out her daughter was dead. "I saw my husband...he just came, and we grabbed each other, and we were just crying.”
Phil Vetrano also testified on Tuesday that he screamed, “my baby, my baby, my baby,” when he discovered his daughter’s body. He said he dropped down to his knees and held her body, PIX11 reported.
Lewis was arrested in February 2017 and charged with second-degree murder after police officers said they linked him to the slaying through DNA evidence taken from a swab of the then-20-year-old’s mouth to the crime scene. He also confessed to the murder.
Lewis’ attorneys and the Legal Aid Society, however, believe their client was coerced into a confession and said his DNA was not at the crime scene.
“This awful crime was not committed by that young man,” said defense attorney Jen Cheung. “Chanel did not murder Karina. He did not sexually assault her, either. Ladies and gentlemen, you won’t hear evidence linking Chanel to a sexual assault. You won’t see Chanel’s blood or body fluid, shoeprints or hair at the crime scene. You won’t see his fingerprints at the crime scene, either.”