In August 2016, Karina Vetrano was sexually assaulted and murdered while out jogging near her home in Queens, New York. Her killer, Chanel Lewis, was convicted in April 2019, more than four months after Lewis’ first trial ended with a hung jury and in a mistrial.
It has been 18 months since prosecutors secured that conviction — a judgment that followed a months-long manhunt, a judge’s controversial decision to suppress evidence, racial divides, and accusations of jury misconduct.
Cathie Vetrano, the victim’s mother, said she is only now “becoming able to start grieving.” She and her husband, Phil Vetrano, who found the lifeless body of their strangled 30-year-old daughter, discuss the case in frank new interviews with “Injustice with Nancy Grace,” airing Thursdays at 9/8c on Oxygen.
As Grace, a former prosecutor and legal analyst, exposes legal injustices that Lewis’ life sentence can never undo, the shattered parents face a cruel, relentless reality.
“I will always be devastated,” Cathie told producers. ”And that’s all there is to it […] I’m an overprotective mother. I just wanted to keep her safe all the time.”
On Aug. 2, 2016, Karina asked her dad to join her for a jog. He’d previously hurt his back and declined, but he expressed concern about her running alone.
“She said, ‘Don’t worry, Daddy. I’ll be OK,’” Phil told producers.
But Karina didn’t return on time or answer repeated calls to her cell phone.
“My primal instincts are telling me something is wrong,” he told “Injustice with Nancy Grace.”
So, he called a friend in law enforcement, and they went out to search for her at Spring Creek Park, where his daughter went jogging. Phil discovered Karina, her neck visibly swollen, lying in the weeds.
“I knew by looking at her that she was dead,” he told producers, adding that he “instinctively picked her up.”
DNA evidence under Karina’s fingernails quickly became a focus of the investigation. Detectives compared the genetic material to samples from the Vetrano family, their friends, and hundreds of people who knew Karina, but no one matched.
To encourage a witness to come forward to help, friends suggested that the Vetranos launch a GoFundMe account. It was established on Aug. 9, 2016 to “supplement the $20,000 reward currently offered by the NYPD.”
“We need your help in bringing this vicious animal to face the most severe punishment allowable by law,” it read. The reward quickly climbed to more than $250,000.
On Oct. 5, 2020, Phil posted that “it’s time to close this site,” which raised $299,742. “We will continue to help others in Karina’s name.”
During the 2016 investigation, the massive reward helped bring far-reaching attention to Karina’s brutal murder. Calls rolled in to detectives, but in the end, the flurry of tips caused “more problems than it was worth,” Barry Brown, a retired New York Police Department detective on the case, told producers.
Investigators turned to DNA phenotyping, which uses strands of genetic material to create a sort of portrait of an individual. It revealed that the DNA evidence was from an African American male.
A witness later came forward and reported seeing a man leave the park the day Karina was killed. The witness said the man walked toward Brooklyn, but an NYPD sketch artist rendering of the suspect didn’t produce any more viable leads.
As Christmas 2016 approached, the FBI stepped up and created a suspect profile. It clicked with an NYPD lieutenant who, like the Vetranos, lives in the Howard Beach area of Queens. He recalled an incident in which he’d been a man who appeared to be casing homes in the neighborhood. He had called in a 911 report, and the suspicious individual was questioned by police.
The man who was interviewed gave his name and date of birth and, because he wasn’t doing anything illegal, went on his way.
The man’s name: Chanel Lewis. He became the focus of a manhunt, and on Feb. 2, 2017, detectives finally found him at his mother’s home. Lewis agreed to give a DNA sample. Two days later, results came back a solid match. The odds of the DNA material on Karina not being Lewis’ were one in 6.8 trillion.
Phil recalled getting the news about the DNA match from Det. Brown: “Six months to the day Karina was murdered, he was swabbed,” he told producers. “And then two days later, he was arrested. It was a surreal moment. And as I was absorbing it, I had a breakdown.”
In his taped confession to police, Lewis said he got angry at Karina during the encounter in Spring Creek Park. He punched her and dragged her into the weeds, where she was brutally killed.
As detectives dug into Lewis’ background, they found a reported history of emotional issues and online searches into subjects such as forcible rape. In a controversial move, the judge in the trial ruled that Lewis’ supposed history with women and online searches couldn’t be used in court.
“Knowing that a jury wasn’t going to be permitted to hear that was very, very infuriating,” Cathie told producers. “In many ways, I feel that the system does offer a defendant a lot of rights that we as victims don’t have.”
As the Vetranos grappled with that legal roadblock, detectives faced accusations that police “decided to pin it on a Black guy,” Brown told producers, who added that “I’m black. I would never do that to someone’s child.” The accused killer’s mother, Veta Williams, believed that her son was a scapegoat and had been set up.
Inside the courtroom, a long deliberation gave Brown a “bad feeling,” he told producers. The jury was deadlocked, and the judge declared a mistrial.
“There are no words to describe that,” Cathie told “Injustice with Nancy Grace. “It was heartbreaking.”
Phil said he felt “blindsided.”
When Lewis went to trial a second time, his confession and the strength of the DNA evidence were more firmly emphasized.
Cathie recalled awaiting for the jury’s decision: “My body was literally convulsing.” The verdict came back guilty of first-degree murder, two counts of second degree murder, and felony sexual assault. Lewis received a life sentence.
“I just felt a bit of peace, but I am not whole,” Cathie told producers. “I am broken every single day.”
SpaceX Starship rocket explodes in fireball just after landing in dramatic footage
It is the third SpaceX Starship to blow up after landing – but billionaire founder Elon Musk didn’t let it faze him – tweeting ‘RIP SN10’ as his work went up in a fireball
The Earth’s deepest secret was just revealed by scientists
The research into what lies deep, deep beneath our feet has yielded precious few details over the past few decades. We all grew up learning that we live on the Earth’s crust, which is just a thin layer above the mantle. Beneath that, the outer core surrounds the inner core, and… well, that’s it, or so we thought. Now, scientists have offered us an update to this model, and they believe the discovery may be concrete enough to warrant the rewriting of textbooks.
In a new paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, a small team of scientists says that the most widely accepted model of the interior of the Earth doesn’t necessarily jive with the data that is available. In its place, the researchers propose a new model that includes a new layer within the inner core, and they say that, based on the data, it may be evidence of a “traumatic event” somewhere in Earth’s history.
The new layer the researchers are said to have confirmed is distinct from the inner core and would represent a new “central inner core,” for lack of a better term. To do this, the team collected a massive amount of data from seismic events over decades, then tested them against models of the Earth’s interior. What they found was that the notion of a new core layer was the best way to match the data with a model.
“Traditionally we’ve been taught the Earth has four main layers: the crust, the mantle, the outer core and the inner core,” Joanne Stephenson, lead author of the work, said in a statement. “The idea of another distinct layer was proposed a couple of decades ago, but the data has been very unclear. We got around this by using a very clever search algorithm to trawl through thousands of the models of the inner core.”
How exactly this newly-identified layer formed is anyone’s guess, but it may point to a more complex story of early Earth formation than was previously accepted.
“We found evidence that may indicate a change in the structure of iron, which suggests perhaps two separate cooling events in Earth’s history. The details of this big event are still a bit of a mystery, but we’ve added another piece of the puzzle when it comes to our knowledge of the Earths’ inner core.”
The discovery of a new core layer may not change much when it comes to our daily lives, but it’s a big step toward better understanding how our planets and others like it form. If we hope to have a solid understanding of the nature of planets, figuring out what is hiding deep within them is a prerequisite and a pretty big one.
Bodies of 11 Infants Found in Ceiling of Funeral Home May Have Been Hidden Because Parents Couldn’t Pay
On Friday, Michigan state investigators received an “anonymous letter” directing them to a Detroit funeral home that closed in April for “deplorable, unsanitary conditions.”
According to the Detroit Free Press, investigators entered the Cantrell Funeral Home with permission from the new owner, who was in the process of converting it to a community center, Detroit Police Lt. Brian Bowser said.
There, they located the bodies of 11 infants and “stillborns” hidden inside a “drop-down ceiling” between the first and second floor of the building.
Nine of the bodies were located hidden inside a box, and two were found inside a garbage bag in a small casket, Bowser confirmed at a press conference.
Police have not confirmed the identities of the infants or why they were hidden in the ceiling. The bodies were badly decomposed; some were “mummified,” and others were “embalmed.”
In April, the funeral home was shut down over unsanitary conditions after inspectors found bodies that had been left to mold and decay.
Owner Raymond Cantrell II admitted he kept bodies when the families couldn’t pay. At the time, he told WJBK:
“Those who have asked me to hold their loved ones will know I was doing them a favor to accommodate them. For those that weren’t, like the many of the cremated they are trying to take from here or that they are taking from here. Those individuals we called we’ve tried to notify and they haven’t been picked up.”
Police have not confirmed that’s why the infants were kept. But Pastor William C. Curtis, who owns three Detroit funeral homes, said that could be the case.
He told the Detroit News:
“A lot of times the family don’t pay and you have to take them to court. There is no recourse, but holding a body isn’t justifiable. It’s not like repossessing a car, you can’t give the body back.”
Cantrell took over the funeral home from his father in 2017. Curtis said they “used to get a lot of business.”
The medical examiner’s office is currently working to identify all the infants and reunite them with their families, it said in a statement.
Cantrell is not facing charges in relation to the discovery at this time.
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