Devastated Mom Holds Up Dead Daughter's Shoes at Convicted Killer's Sentencing
The convicted killer of Queens jogger Karina Vetrano was sentenced to life in prison without parole Tuesday, and her parents were there in court to confront him.
Karina's mother, Cathie Vetrano, held up her slain daughter's shoes. “This is a day where we acknowledge that Karina’s life matters,” Cathie told the court in a powerful victim impact statement. “As tiny as they are, these are the shoes of a giant — a valiant warrior and a queen."
She went on to call Karina's killer, 22-year-old Chanel Lewis, "repulsive" and added that she lost herself as well on the day her daughter died.
“My hope is that you live a long life within the prison of the law and the prison of your conscience," Cathie told Lewis.
Karina was just 30 when she was murdered while out for a jog one summer evening in 2016.
Karina was an avid runner who often took to the paths near her family’s Howard Beach home with her father, a retired firefighter. But Philip Vetrano didn’t go with his daughter on Aug. 2, 2016, opting to stay behind because he was nursing an injury.
When Karina didn’t return home and didn’t answer her phone, her father called the police. Her body was found face-down 15 feet off the Spring Creek Park path. She had been strangled, her teeth were broken and she suffered scrapes to her legs. She had been clutching grass, indicating she had been dragged, and her clothes had been partially removed. She had been sexually assaulted.
Philip also had strong words for Lewis.
“There are no more merry Christmas, no more happy New Years, no more happy birthdays, there is no more pleasure in life. No more smiles, no more happiness — those are all taken by that convicting murdering rapist," he said.
He added: “Only my faith in God and my belief in heaven keeps me from killing myself for fear of not being allowed into heaven to see my baby again."
Lewis wasn't arrested in the crime until months later. At the time, police said he confessed to killing her during a 12-hour-long interview, allegedly saying, “I beat her to let my emotions out.”
But Lewis' lawyers argued that the confession was false, the result of tough police tactics.
On Tuesday, Lewis himself maintained his innocence.
“The only thing I want to say is, I’m innocent. I’m sorry for the family’s loss, but I didn’t do this," Lewis told the court.
Judge Michael Aloise told Lewis that he looks forward to the day he accepts responsibility for the crime.
"But I will say, when and if you come to that decision, you would do it inside a cage — that's a guarantee," Aloise said.
Chanel's mother, Veta Lewis, spoke outside court to say she believes her son was framed.
“As a mother, I still believe, and I know, my son Chanel is innocent. Chanel did not kill this lady,” she said.
She added her condolences for the Vetrano family.
"I am a mother, and it broke my heart when [Cathie] talked today because I feel the mother’s pain. … The mother will never see her daughter,” she said.