Sordid details of how a killer murdered and sexually abused a Queens jogger two years ago drove the victim’s mother to tears Monday during opening arguments at the trial for the man accused of strangling Karina Vetrano in a park near her Howard Beach home.
Cathy Vetrano sobbed and clutched a cross as prosecutor Brad Leventhal went through the last moments of the victim’s life, describing in horrifying detail the battle she waged before her attacker literally choked the life out of her.
“She was attacked brutally,” Leventhal told rapt jurors and families that filled the Queens courtroom. “Her attacker struggled with her. He pummeled her. He strangled her. He put his legs on her chest. Then she fought for her life. She struggled to get away. But he overpowered her.”
“And he strangled her until she could not struggle anymore,” he continued. “He strangled her until she was dead.”
Defendant Chanel Lewis, 21, watched the grieving mother, nervously biting his nails, as Leventhal described the last moments of Vetrano’s life.
Prosecutors had said Lewis’s taped confession should make this an easy decision for jurors deciding the suspect’s fate.
But Lewis lawyers have said the confession was coerced, and should not be admissible, an argument they were expected to make during their opening argument Monday afternoon.
Vetrano, 30, was murdered while jogging through Spring Creek Park near her Howard Beach home Aug. 2, 2016. Her father found her body hours later in a patch of weeds while helping police during their intensive search.
Cops arrested Chanel last February.
Lewis, who lived on the other side of the park, in East New York, got on detectives’ radar once they started to review instances of men who’d stopped near the crime scene around the time of the slaying.