52° Good Morning
52° Good Morning

Anonymous letter in Vetrano case draws swift response

In a strong statement late Friday, an NYPD spokesman said the document was "an 11th hour letter, a missive riddled with falsehoods and inaccuracies."

Chanel Lewis appears in Queens Supreme Court on

Chanel Lewis appears in Queens Supreme Court on the fifth day of his retrial in the murder of Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano. Photo Credit: Curtis Means for Means

On the eve of jury deliberations in the case of the man accused of murdering Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano, the NYPD, prosecutors and the Legal Aid Society are responding to an anonymous note attempting to raise last-minute questions about the police investigation.

The three-page, single-spaced letter landed with prosecutors, defense attorneys and the media, including Newsday, on Friday. It claims to have been written by an NYPD officer and made a number of allegations, some related to claims of racial profiling, about the way NYPD detectives focused on defendant Chanel Lewis, the 22-year-old Brooklyn man on trial for Vetrano’s killing and sexual abuse. The case is slated to go to the jury Monday.

In a strong statement late Friday, an NYPD spokesman said the document was “an 11th hour letter, a missive riddled with falsehoods and inaccuracies.”

However, Tina L. Luongo of the Legal Aide Society said the information was “troubling and reliable,” and that her staff defending Lewis intend to ask Judge Michael Aloise to open a hearing into what she said was “a race-based dragnet” aimed at taking DNA from black men. Lewis is being retried after his first trial ended in a mistrial.

A spokeswoman for the Queens District Attorney's Office said the office would be responding to the letter in court, apparently on Monday.

The letter made a number of statements — some demonstrably false according to court records — and allegations about the way cops took DNA from Lewis in early 2017. The basis of one part of the letter relates to assessments by two cops who took Lewis’ voluntary DNA sample in February 2017 in which they allegedly said to other officers that he “is not the perp, he seems to [sic] dimwitted.”  Those statements were allegedly made before the Lewis’ DNA was found to have been a match with genetic material found on Vetrano’s bloody body.

The anonymous letter-writer also claimed that a stop police made of Lewis in Howard Beach back in May 2016, some two months before the homicide, was “unconstitutional.” In pretrial proceedings earlier in the case, a judge found that street stop to be legal.

The anonymous letter made a number of other claims police officials said were false: that police commanders wanted to go after ‘two jacked up guys from Howard Beach,” and that another commander wanted to take DNA swabs of all white men in the community. Cops took DNA from about 400 persons, including white and black men, records show.

The letter became public the day after both prosecution and defense attorneys rested in the case and following testimony of a DNA expert that Lewis’ DNA was found on Vetrano’s neck and cellphone. The expert testimony seemed to some court observers to be powerful.

The letter writer also speculated that maybe Vetrano had dropped her phone and Lewis picked it up to give it back to her. Trial testimony showed the two never met and that her phone was swabbed clean before she went on her fateful Aug. 2, 2016, jog.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

News photos & videos