Karina Vetrano, 30, was taking an evening run around her Howard Beach home in Queens when she was raped, murdered and left face down in weeded marshes.
Her murder shook the community—and the city at-large, with many following the six-month police search to find the killer. News broke yesterday that 20-year-old Chanel Lewis has been arrested for the crime.
A tip from Lt. John Russo helped to secure the arrest. Russo remembered seeing Lewis ‘lurking around parked cars in Howard Beach’ in late May and called 911,’ according to The New York Daily News. When police arrived on the scene, Lewis was nowhere to be found. He was spotted again the next day and cops arrived to question him.
When Russo began investigating the Vertrano murder, he remembered Lewis as a suspicious character. Hospital records would prove the day after Vertrano was murdered, Lewis was seen by doctors at SUNY Downstate ER, claiming he was attacked by muggers. He was treated for a hand injury.
Cops arrested Lewis around 6 pm. Saturday.
Lewis, who had no previous criminal record, admitted to killing Vetrano during her jog. He submitted a DNA sample to police that matched the DNA found on Vetrano.
While the arrest brought relief to her community and hinted at justice for a mourning family, the media coverage that ensued has been racially problematic.
The NY Daily News referred to Lewis on its cover as a ‘brute’ ‘demon’ and ‘woman-hater,’ words that feed into longstanding depictions of Black men as violent and animalistic. The racial aspects of the case—an accused Black man and white female victim—triggers memories of other high-profile cases, including Emmet Till‘s.
Given Lewis’ confession, there are stark differences from what happened with Till. Yet as journalist and activist Shaun King wrote in the NY Daily News, “…how one lone black man is viewed, trickles down in peculiar ways to how millions of black men are viewed. By in large, when a white man rapes and murders a woman, which has happened tens of thousands of times in this nation, it does not trickle down to how everyday Americans view white men in general. The reverse is damn true though.”