The Case of Karina Vetrano

[Music] [Music] [Music] [Music] [Music] i reiterate everything that my husband said a hundred fold i thank howard beach beyond words every single one of you and now look into my eyes everybody because i'm going to address the coward whoever you are whether you're one whether you're 10 i'm gonna just use singular but i'm here to remind you in case you don't already know that now it's the whole entire world against you the whole entire world knows what a pathetic puny weak piece of filth that you are the whole world knows that and soon i know they're all going to know your face as well soon we're going to have a face to the piece of garbage that you are and above and beyond you all you know that my daughter was a force to be reckoned with and i guarantee you i guarantee you you mother that you will be reckoning with that force not only for the rest of your pathetic life but for the rest of eternity as you burn in hell i guarantee you that my daughter was a big believer of karma and as you could see she's magical the whole world knows she's magical and i guarantee you you will pay forever thank you carina ann vetrano was born on july 12th of 1986. she lived in queens new york with her parents phil and kathy and her older sister tana phil was a retired new york firefighter and was one of the first responders to ground zero on 9 11. kathy was a cancer survivor and as you'll see in this video she was also a force to be reckoned with karina loved rainbows and butterflies and she had a very close relationship with her family she described herself as a thrill seeker and a daydreamer she grew up in howard beach which is a close-knit mostly italian neighborhood in queens new york it's the kind of neighborhood where everyone looks out for each other howard beach is divided into multiple different neighborhoods karina lived in the section that's referred to as new howard by local residents it has a population of 29 000 people it's considered an upper-class suburban neighborhood with mostly upscale single-family homes it's located in the southwestern part of howard beach that backs up to spring creek park one of the more notable residents they had living there once upon a time was john gotti the head of the gambino crime family his grandson still lived there and was acquaintances with karina in fact after what happened to karina on august 2nd of 2016 he made a public comment about what happened to her saying that she was drop dead gorgeous and a sweetheart and then he personally felt that the neighborhood used to be much safer karina lived in a beautiful home on 84th street she went to malloy high school which was the same high school her father graduated from in 1974. from everything that's been said about her karina was extremely vivacious and outgoing she had a lot of friends a lot of different interests and ambitions she was also very intelligent introspective and talented she was a fitness fanatic a poetry fan and a writer she described herself as having a beautiful and chaotic life karina had a huge social media following she frequently posted photos of her travels all over the world she had taken trips to europe and to egypt where she wrote camels by the great pyramids her father phil was quoted as saying that she lived more in her short 30 years than most people do in 10 lifetimes karina had a blog where she wrote about her thoughts on love sex religion and even death she was also in a short film based on her writings called the paradox this is a demonstration of how beauty can be wasted by a girl with a fascination with innocence yet runs towards predicaments to put herself in then this is the dissonance of my existence on july 12th of 2016 karina turned 30. in true karina style she took an amazing trip to the french riviera with some of her friends one of the nights she was there she took a picture of herself at the promenade de anglais just 24 hours before the terrorist attack there that claimed the lives of 85 people in 2016 at only 30 years old karina had her masters in speech pathology and worked with autistic children as a speech therapist she had a very close relationship with her family and she and her father ran together almost every day on tuesday august 2nd phil went to pick karina up from the train station around 4 pm after she got off work they headed over to a local pizzeria called gino's where they picked up some pizza to take home after they got home karina hung out with her parents in the kitchen and ate half of a slice before going to her room to change clothes for a run phil had recently injured his back and was laid up on the couch he told karina that he wasn't up to going on a run that evening and he didn't want her to run alone karina had just broken up with her boyfriend two days earlier and wanted to clear her head and go for a jog she was also training for a marathon in cuba and didn't want to miss a training run phil recalls that he warned her to stay away from the paths near spring creek park there had recently been some vagrants and some just overall sketchy people hanging out in that area and the locals had been concerned and complaining as she set off for her run she told him it's okay daddy i'll be all right when karina left for her run she was wearing running shorts a sports bra and blue and gold new balance running shoes she had her phone with her and her earbuds in listening to music karina set out on the very short run to spring creek park which is only about two blocks away from her home this particular park is a public park along the jamaica bay shoreline between queens and brooklyn the parks a mostly undeveloped saltwater marshland with a few trails carved out in the tall brush the locals refer to this area as the weeds because it's overgrown with grass and brush that can be over 10 feet high karina was 411. there is streetcam footage of karina on 83rd street jogging towards the park shortly after leaving her home this is the last footage of karina vetrano alive it was still daylight at 5 46 when she reached the corner of 164th and 83rd street normally karina would turn right and head east back through the neighborhood this fateful day however she turned left stepped over the low guardrail into the brush and towards the path she was relaxing listening to her music while texting one of her best friends as she made her way back into the thick weeds towards the marshy beach the desolate dirt path is approximately eight feet wide with almost 12 foot high sturdy weeds creating walls on each side karina's text to her friend suddenly stopped phil said that after karina left for her run he had a really bad feeling he tried to call her cell phone a few times but there was no answer when two hours passed and karina hadn't returned he and kathy began to panic cathy vetrano knew that it was very unusual for karina to be gone for that length of time she began repeatedly calling karina's cell phone it was also highly unusual that she wasn't answering any of their calls phil called one of his neighbors and friends who was an nypd officer and asked for his help in looking for karina since so much time had passed since she left they also called her in as a missing person for the next several hours phil and nypd officers using bloodhounds searched the streets and then the park phil anxiously smoked a cigar as he walked in the dark calling karina's cell phone and leaving her desperate voicemails as he walked near the bike path towards the beach he spotted karina's phone on the ground her screen was lit up as he was calling her over and over with a sick pit of dread in his stomach he started running towards an area nearby with tall weeds and cattails as he approached he could see a section of weeds that was matted down karina's body was face down in the clearing phil recalls how he found his daughter that horrible evening she was on her stomach her right arm under her and her left arm out next to her her legs were ironically in a running position her head was tilted back into the side he started screaming and wailing as he pulled her stiff body up to his chest alerted by phil's cries officers quickly ran over and gently tried to get phil to let go of his daughter's body and step back from the crime scene while they waited for csi to arrive karina had been severely beaten with her hands clenched in fists she was covered in scratches and bruises one of her fists was still holding a handful of brush from when she desperately was trying to stop her attacker from dragging her back into the weeds investigators stated that karina had fought viciously some of her teeth were cracked and some were knocked out her running shorts were completely pulled off one leg and halfway down her other thigh her sports bra was also pushed up over her chest there was a visible hand print on her neck investigators found one shoe and one earbud that had been thrown about 60 feet away from her body after phil left the park he was met with kathy standing in their street waiting for word on karina phil recalled that he didn't even have to say the words to kathy when he got home she just knew they both began sobbing and fell into each other's arms the following day on wednesday august 3rd howard beach was swarming with police and crime scene investigators the residents of howard beach were horrified and outraged at the viciousness of her murder less than a mile from her home there was also an outrage at the city as there had long been complaints about the overgrown weeds in the park and safety issues that had been repeatedly ignored as they processed the crime scene they were able to collect dna off of the screen of karina's cell phone under her fingernails and on her back her autopsy revealed that karina had died of strangulation there was a large extensive abrasion on her right buttock and bruising to her neck and face she also had scratches on her neck suggesting that she scratched her own neck trying to pry her attacker's hands off of her throat to keep him from strangling her only a few blocks away a local man walked into an emergency room with an injured hand he told the doctor that he injured it when he tripped while jogging however the injury was more consistent with landing a punch karina's death quickly became national news everyone from locals to celebrities to the mayor of new york himself spoke out about karina's murder actor donnie wahlberg took to his instagram to pay tribute to karina he wrote i've met thousands of amazing new yorkers while filming blue bloods none were as kind as karina vetrano with no dna matches or tips to go on investigators ask the public to call in with anything mayor bill de blasio stated we really need the public's help on this one a 10 000 reward was offered for any information on karina's case turn yourself in i will make sure that reward money goes to the person of your choice your sister your brother your mother it's a life-changing you will be caught so take advantage of that on august 6th carina vetrano's funeral was held at saint helen's roman catholic church nypd blocked off the surrounding streets while hundreds of people came to pay their last respects to karina the church was so packed that they had to play the service through speakers outside to accommodate everyone new york city firefighters lined the door as karina's casket was carried inside people who were in attendance remember that there were no dry eyes during the service as her friends and family spoke of their favorite memories of karina phil vetrana recalls that during the funeral investigators pulled him aside and asked for his dna he told them take whatever you need if you need my right arm take my right arm on august 31st police released a sketch of a person of interest a man who had been seen near spring creek park around the time of karina's attack a utility worker had seen the man coming out of the weeds and running on a path nearby six months went by with no new leads or developments in december of 2016 the fbi partnered with the nypd to come up with a profile of the killer from the dna that they obtained from the crime scene investigators determined they were looking for an african-american male they took voluntary samples of more than 350 black men investigators also took samples from karina's ex-boyfriends family and co-workers none for a match then in february of 2017 one of the detectives working on the case lieutenant john russo remembered something on may 30 2016 just two months before karina's attack he was off duty and pulling up to his home in queens when he noticed someone suspicious he saw a man across the street walking away from him despite it being a very muggy hot new york evening the man was dressed in long sleeves and a hoodie he seemed to be slowly walking down the street looking at each house lieutenant russo followed him for 45 minutes and eventually called the police but the man was able to slip out of sight the next day a local business owner called and reported a suspicious man with a crowbar loitering around the parking lot when police arrived they frisked him and detained him for 15 minutes but eventually let him go the man was 20 year old chanel lewis from brooklyn he had also had several run-ins with the police in spring creek park over the last several years for public urination and other minor offenses on a hunch lieutenant russo decided they should go talk to him as they dug deeper into chanel's past they claim that they found a history of chanel stating that he wanted to hurt women on january 31st 2017 police asked chanel for a voluntary dna swab he agreed to give his sample and during his conversation with investigators he acknowledged hearing of karina's murders in the news a few days later the dna came back as a match chanel lewis was arrested on the evening of february 4th no anything you have to say no why were you hiding it were you hiding out for six months now [Applause] now anything you have to say to family uniform uniform we hope to get to this point one day you know and didn't expect i didn't know when it was gonna happen it just happened very quickly and um can't really even respond to how we feel we don't know yet but the police did an excellent job they they solved this through good old hard police investigative awards we're still gonna advocate for familiar dna testing we don't know if this person had relatives that were in jail it's a good day but it and we can move forward now move forward now we're in a place as my husband said we love our daughter so very very deeply our sorrow is so endlessly painful that hearing the news is not what i expected there's no happiness but we are grateful to the new york city police department who is the most fantastic police department in the entire world they worked endlessly and tirelessly and that was because of their passion combined with our passion for our daughter we would stop at nothing to find the savage that did this to her when you guys heard that this was police said it was a chance encounter that there was no connection between your daughter and this individual did that hurt more did it it's kind of we kind of know that we kind of know that at this point in time after six months you know and thinking about it logically it was impossible for somebody to find the follower in there it had to be a random wrong place at the wrong time and uh you know she was unlucky that day you're about to go to the court hearing send me arraignment of course we are 100 yeah we have to show support the demon must get his justice oh yeah and we will see to it the morning after chanel's arrest police executed a search warrant at his home at 576 essex street in brooklyn chanel's cell phone contained 137 search history items that investigators considered relevant to karina's case these searches included his online search for the catholic sacrament of penance he also had searches for after a crime the price of a second chance miranda warning arraignment and what happens after a felony conviction his phone also contained two images of karina and of the crime scene the interrogation after chanel's arrest would become a hotly debated topic that is still discussed online today okay we're present in 107th police precinct the date is sunday february 5th 2017. and the time is about 10 33 a.m my name is peter mccormick i'm an assistant d.a in and for the county of queens president of the room with me at this time are detective barry brown ada michael curtis video technician joseph deal and chanel lewis okay so now i'm about to be reading your rights after that if you agree to speak with me you may if you wish make a statement about and answer questions about an incident that occurred on august 2nd 2016. even though i've already spoken to someone else you do not have to talk to us i'm going to now read you your rights you have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions do you understand yes anything you do say may be used against you in a court of law do you understand yes you have the right to consult with an attorney before speaking to me or to the police and to have an attorney present during any questioning now or in the future do you understand yes all right chanel why don't we start with i think it was a tuesday evening on august 2nd um 2016. do you remember that that date and that evening all right and where were you at that time [Music] i was in springfield we spent more okay by gateway and spring creek mall park park all right we inside the park yeah okay and was anyone with you or were you by yourself by myself all right about what time did you get to the park about five o'clock are there any trails in the park okay and were you on the trail are you in the grass on the trail okay what kind of trail is it paved or dirt or what it's kind of like kind of dirt okay about what time would you say you got to the park that night that that evening oh five um while you were in the park well do you remember what you were wearing that day it was a hoodie a sweatpants and shoes okay while you're in the park um did something happen yes what happened while you're in the park this girl jogging and then then you know one thing led to another because some other situation all right well the girl that was jogging was she by herself or with anybody else by myself and when you first saw her where were you were you in the grass or were you on the trail on the trail all right and were you moving are you were you standing still because moving listen to music you were you were walking or jogging walking walking and you're walking towards her i'm always walking towards and then left side to side and then anything left when you first saw her though were you walking towards her or the same direction when you first saw her towards each other okay and she was jogging you said all right do you know if she had anything on with anything on her head or in her hands remember as she was approaching you she might have had her phone okay and where would her where was her phone was it in her hand or was it clipped to her clothes do you remember it was it okay and uh you said as she got next to you when she got next to you as us he was running and you were walking what happened then and then you know it was a past situation i got angry and then right here in there and stuff like that okay um before you did where did you hit her like in the face and like in the face and the mouth before you hit her did you grab her or just hit her right away i kind of grabbed her first grabbed her then like how did you grab it what part of her body did you did you grab i started hearing them because of the incident what was going on earlier right but did you did you grab her before you started hitting or it was the first thing you did was to hit her what was the first thing you did i grabbed it okay and how did you grab her okay with both hands okay and what part of her body did you grab do you remember her shoulders her waist her neck do you remember probably right here okay around the shoulders and when you grabbed her what happened then and started in there and stuff like that all right now um did you hit it with both hands probably yeah all right and what part of her body did you hit with your hands i didn't hit anything for everybody her face just just the face all right about how many times did you hit her in the face i'm five all right was she standing when you started to hit her or was he on the ground he was on the ground okay so did she when did she fall to the ground after you grabbed her all right now once he fell to the ground was he lying in the path or was he off the path the pathway when when she fell to the ground and you were hitting her was he on the pathway or was he off the pathway on the pathway all right about how wide is this path would you say like a couple of feet okay so it's not that wide right and um when you were hitting her in the face was she face up or face down she was like face up face up did she say anything at all no did she scream i'm sorry her tooth broke right were you covering her mouth at all no okay um the tooth that broke was it like in the front the top of the bottom do you remember no okay how long would you say you were hitting her for about how how long in time the whole thing was about five minutes five minutes all right and did you do anything else to her besides hit her did you put her hands on any other part of her body no around her neck or anything i'm sorry yeah you put her hands on the rack around her neck okay do you remember was it one hand or both hands both all right and how long do you have your hands around her neck okay did you squeeze her neck when you had your hands around her neck yeah yeah okay you don't remember how long though okay you were mad about an incident okay we're gonna get to that in a little bit all right i just want to find out what happened all right um and was she still moving when you had your hands around her neck oh yeah and then she jumped into the water okay well when you had your hands around the neck was she on the ground or standing up on the ground face up or face down for yourself all right and then how did her face go in the water oh strangling we needed water and then put her face in the ground okay you were sleeping and you put okay which hand do you remember uh you just showed me your right hand right right where was the bleeding what part of the hand your knuckle okay and when her face went in the water was she face up her face down down down my face up yes all right was the water covering her face and how long did you hold her under the water actually i didn't know what i know when i came back well he didn't hold her under the water okay was she was she moving when you put her face in the water she was not moving okay what do you remember was she still moving when you had your hands around her neck at all how was she moving what was she doing like she wasn't really moving that much okay did she um try to hit you or do it touch your bottom holder at this time okay what did she do okay and um did she scratch you where did she scratch you okay would that be on the the um the right side of your face probably one of these two though okay did she leave a mark or a scratch on your face yes all right do you know what happened to her phone she must have lost it all of that did you ever grab her phone yeah i might have touched it okay did you touch it you know where did you put it somewhere or no no um when you left her in the grass what were her clothes still on what was the uh step status of her clothing how was i was closing my eyes pulled it off pulled off yeah okay what was pulled off like her clothes her shirt her pants her pants what about her shirt sure i think it was still intact still maybe okay and when you say her pants were pulled off were they totally off or were they half on a half off what were they look like kind of half off okay um were they down or up i mean her pants kind of like down okay what about her underwear maybe it was down too okay now you said that you did this because you had some anger is that right all right um can you tell me about that anger because you know i used to live in a different address and i currently live right now right and then there's sometimes there's this man that comes around there he played like a lot of music and carried a lot of friends around there and didn't like it because i feel unsafe and comfortable and i like my place private and peaceful and there was someone there who got you angry do you remember who that was do you remember who that was did that particular person you don't have to tell us who he is but he did he make you angry that day on august 2nd or tuesday yeah because like every everyday keeping the music by his friends and then we're just living a quiet block you know like all these type of stuff okay about what time was that what time was that that he was playing the music and got you annoyed and got you pretty much pretty much all day is there anything you want to say to us before we wrap this up where do we go from here oh i don't know i don't know okay we'll see wait you're you're 20 right i'm an assistant do you yes yes the 20 is turning is on with somewhere else right yeah later on okay all right so yeah what's gonna happen from here well we'll see you know we'll see okay like what is restitution what program yeah i can't say according to chanel's parents he was a kind and respectful young man his mother vida was quoted as saying my son is a friendly god-fearing man and would not hurt anyone however chanel's school record told a much different story in 2011 chanel's high school called police after he got into an argument with a female student he then ranted to classmates that he hated women and wanted to hurt them with a knife chanel transferred schools after that incident and graduated in 2015 from martin de pour high school a school comprised of children experiencing emotional and behavioral issues chanelle's mother vida did recall that upon returning home on the night of august 2nd he looked disheveled and his clothes were torn chanel told his mother that he had been mugged by a group of men although there was no evidence of such an attack and a police report was never filed in addition to that chanel's father richard admitted that he took him to the hospital on august 3 for an injury to his hand and scratches all over his arms hospital records confirmed this as well chanelle's attorneys argued that the evidence against him should be inadmissible since they were all the direct fruit of an unlawful stop and frisk that was the result of racial profiling however in february 2018 a judge ruled that all of the evidence against chanel lewis was admissible in court chanelle lewis's trial for the murder of carina vetrano began on november 5th of 2018. he plead not guilty to all charges during the trial chanelle's confession was played for the jury during his confession he told detectives that he injured his hand on karina's teeth he recalled the horrific and brutal attack as he became enraged when karina ferociously fought back he told detectives that after punching karina five times in the face he then drug her into the weeds to quote finish her off minutes after his arrest when he was in the back of the squad car he also asked detectives if he could have a picture of karina to which they responded no the defense argued that phil vetrano tainted the crime scene when he picked karina up when the jury went back for deliberations they requested some key pieces of evidence the dna the autopsy report and chanel's confession however on november 21st they returned telling the judge that they were deadlocked karina's family was devastated at the news the retrial took place in march of 2019. during the new trial the defense raised questions surrounding chanel's confession they allege that chanel was held for hours overnight without an attorney before he agreed to confess on the prosecution's end they told the jury how they had placed chanel near the crime scene at the time the karina was killed by geolocation pings from his cell phone the jury went back for deliberations on april 1st of 2019. this time it took them less than five hours to come back with a verdict [Applause] the courtroom broke out in tears and screams and applause when the jury came back with guilty verdicts on all four counts the four man reading loud and clear that they believe 22 year old channel lewis murdered and sexually abused 30 year old carina vetrano whose only crime was going for a jog her parents leaving court tonight feeling like their prayers have finally been answered jubilation justice justice this is what she looked like an hour before the defendant got his hands on her and this is what she looked like after it brought at least one juror to tears five hours later guilty on all counts on april 23rd karina's family and friends sat in the courtroom anxiously waiting to finally see justice for carina chanel was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole phil vetrano has made a small shrine for karina in the spot where she was killed he has created a secret garden that only their closest friends and family know about hidden in a secret spot behind the weeds off of the trail he claims that the garden of red and yellow flowers helps him deal with the grief and serves to honor karina kathy tries to cope with her anger and sadness by journaling and reading karina's writings both of them say that their grief is too much to bear most days they keep a shrine in their home and place butterfly wings on her bedroom window chanel lewis has not had an easy go of it in prison he was originally housed at rikers island where he continuously complained about the food and his treatment at the hands of the guards he was then transferred to a suffolk county jail where he was assaulted by other inmates and hospitalized for his injuries there is still widespread speculation online on whether or not chanel lewis is guilty of karina's murder you will also see if you look this case up there's plenty of victim blaming that goes on all kinds of kind of conspiracy theories and quite frankly disgusting comments surrounding her murder malloy high school has held an annual walkathon each summer in karina's honor in the past three years over 175 thousand dollars has been raised for students through the carina vetrano memorial scholarship phil wears his daughter's blue and gold running shoes and says that the day is about running for her since she no longer can and celebrating her life for live discussions on this case and others join us for true crime and wine wednesdays each week only on patreon