Karina Vetrano, 30, was taking her evening run around her Howard Beach home in Queens when she was raped and murdered and left face down in weeded marshes.
Her murder shook the community, with such a heinous crime considered rare in her neighborhood.
The search for her killer spanned six months, with the police finally zeroing in on 20-year-old Chanel Lewis as a suspect.
A tip from Lt. John Russo helped to secure the arrest. Russo remembered seeing Lewis ‘lurking around parked cars in Howard Beach’ in late May and called 911,’ according to The New York Daily News. When police arrived on the scene, Lewis was nowhere to be found. He was spotted again the next day and cops arrived to question him.
When Russo began investigating the Vertrano murder, he remembered Lewis as a suspicious character. Hospital records would prove the day after Vertrano was murdered, Lewis was seen by doctors at SUNY Downstate ER, claiming he was attacked by muggers. He was treated for a hand injury.
Cops arrested Lewis around 6 pm. Saturday.
Lewis, who had no previous criminal record, admitted to killing Vetrano during her jog. He submitted a DNA sample to police that matched the DNA found on Vetrano.
While the arrest brought relief to a reeling community and hinted at justice for a mourning family, the media coverage that ensued was racially problematic.
The NY Daily News referred to Lewis as a ‘brute’ ‘demon’ and ‘woman-hater,’ words that pained family and friends may use considering the alleged crime, but is journalistically irresponsible language for media to use, given the history of demonization and dehumanization of Black men.
The racial dynamic of the case, with the accused being a Black man and the victim a white woman, triggers memories of other high profile cases where Black men were villanized publicly via Emmet Till.
Of course, given Lewis’ confession the case departs from the innocence and brutal injustice of a young Emmett Till, but the words used are troubling. As Sean King said in his piece for NY Daily News, “how one lone black man is viewed, trickles down in peculiar ways to how millions of black men are viewed. By in large, when a white man rapes and murders a woman, which has happened tens of thousands of times in this nation, it does not trickle down to how everyday Americans view white men in general. The reverse is damn true though.”