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Slain jogger's mother among those expected to testify in new trial

Catherine Vetrano didn’t testify in the first trial, but her husband, Philip, did take the stand.

The retrial of Chanel Lewis in the slaying

The retrial of Chanel Lewis in the slaying of jogger Karina Vetrano, whose body was found in a park near her Howard Beach home, is to begin Monday. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

The mother of slain Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano is among those expected to testify in the retrial of a Brooklyn man charged with her murder, which opens Monday in Queens State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens.

Catherine Vetrano, whose emotional cries for justice in the days after her daughter was found dead in Spring Creek Park saturated the media, is on a list of potential witnesses read aloud in court last week and slated to be called by prosecutors in the trial of Chanel Lewis.  

Lewis, 22, faces charges of murder and sexual abuse for the Aug. 2, 2016, killing of 30-year-old Vetrano as she jogged through the park. The first trial of Lewis ended in a mistrial in November after jurors couldn’t reach a unanimous decision. The panel in that trial was split 7-to-5 in favor of conviction, according to people briefed on the deliberations.

The retrial, before Judge Michael Aloise, is expected to last from three to four weeks. The jury for the retrial is composed evenly of men and women and, unlike the first jury, appears made up largely of older people, some in their 60s. The racial and ethnic composition appears mixed.

Catherine Vetrano didn’t testify in the first trial, although her husband, Philip, did take the stand, recounting in emotional testimony how he found his daughter’s battered body in the park weeds as he searched with police.  It was unclear what Catherine Vetrano would testify about,  but it seems likely  to revolve around the hours before and after her daughter went jogging.

Lewis was arrested in February 2017 after a DNA sample he gave cops voluntarily matched genetic material found on the neck and fingernails of the victim,  as well as on her cellphone. After his arrest, Lewis gave two confessions. His Legal Aid Society attorneys maintain those confessions were coerced and that the DNA evidence was ambiguous.

 In recent weeks, Lewis had been transferred from city jails to a facility in Suffolk County after he was found to be abusing telephone privileges and for his own safety,  Aloise said last week during jury selection.  Aloise consented to have Lewis moved back to Rikers Island, but gave him a warning about not repeatedly making 311 calls to lodge complaints, as he did while in city custody.


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