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DNA on Karina Vetrano matches suspect in slain jogger's murder, official testifies

Linda Razzano, a deputy manager of the forensic biology lab in the city medical examiner's office, said Lewis' unique genetic profile made the chances 1:6 trillion that someone else shared the same profile.

Dr. Margaret Prial, center, who performed the autopsy

Dr. Margaret Prial, center, who performed the autopsy on Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano, exits a courtroom at State Supreme Court in Queens after testifying Wednesday at the trial of Chanel Lewis, who is accused of killing Vetrano. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

DNA evidence found on the neck and cellphone of slain Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano matched that of Chanel Lewis, the man charged with her murder, a city official testified Wednesday in State Supreme Court in Queens.

Linda Razzano, a deputy manager of the forensic biology lab in the city medical examiner's office told the jury hearing the murder case against Lewis that the defendant’s unique genetic profile, secured when he voluntarily submitted a DNA sample to police, made the chances 1:6 trillion that someone else shared the same profile.

Under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Brad Leventhal, Razzano, who said she had testified in thousands of cases, likened the probability of another random match similar to Lewis as requiring “940 Earth populations” to find another identical comparison.

Asked by Leventhal if the DNA on Vetrano's neck and the cellphone matched that of Lewis, Razzano responded “yes.”

Razzano’s answer drew an objection, which wasn’t explained, from Legal Aid Society attorney Jenny Cheung. But Judge Michael Aloise overruled the objection and allowed Razzano to testify for what turned out to be the remainder of Wednesday afternoon.

Razzano’s testimony capped an emotional and wrenching day in the trial, with a medical examiner describing in often clinical and stark terms the grievous injuries Vetrano suffered the night she was killed in August 2016.

Dr. Margaret Prial, the physician who did the autopsy on Vetrano the day after she died, used blow ups of color photographs as she described the bruising, abrasions and evidence of strangulation on the victim’s body. She said the victim suffered “extensive” injuries over her body.

Forewarned about Prial’s testimony, Vetrano’s father Philip left the courtroom with his other daughter Tana so they wouldn’t have to listen to the medical testimony. But his wife Catherine remained in the courtroom and seemed shaken by the testimony. Catherine Vetrano placed a purple scarf over her mouth and covered her eyes with a tissue. As Prial testified, Catherine Vetrano’s left hand quivered as she held it to her face, while a friend embraced her shoulder.

Prial told how, in her opinion, some of the scratches on the victim’s neck and chin were caused when she tried to pull away the assailant's hands as he applied pressure to her neck. Prial also described injuries to Vetrano that prosecutors say indicate she was sexually assaulted in the attack that took place as she jogged through Spring Creek Park.

Prial noted that Vetrano’s carotid artery in her neck was compressed. She said unconsciousness could have occurred in 10 to 20 second of neck compression, with death in two to three minutes. Prial said she ruled that Vetrano died from strangulation and didn’t drown even though her hair seemed damp. In one of his confessions. Lewis told investigators that he had his hand around Vetrano’s neck for five minutes and at one point said she drowned when her face went into a puddle of water.

At the close of Wednesday’s court session, Razzano was being cross-examined about DNA techniques used in the case; that was expected to continue Thursday.

The prosecution is expected to rest Thursday and the defense said it expected to have two witnesses, an investigator and a “possible”  crime scene witness. Aloise said closing arguments probably will take place Monday.


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