Neither the DNA evidence nor a confession was enough to convince Richard Lewis that his son was behind one of the most notorious crimes in recent city history.
Even as cops paraded Chanel Lewis, 20, past a wall of reporters outside the NYPD’s 107th Precinct stationhouse in Queens, Lewis could not believe his son had anything to do with the rape and murder of a jogger in Howard Beach that had baffled cops for months.
Karina Vetrano’s father found her body in a patch of tall weeds near her Howard Beach home after she went out for a run and disappeared on Aug. 2.
Cops said the 30-year-old woman was punched in the face and strangled after putting up a vicious fight that left the killer’s DNA under her fingernails.
Chanel Lewis admits to killing Queens jogger Karina Vetrano
Officials said Chanel Lewis’ DNA was a match.
Richard Lewis, father of accused killer Chanel Lewis, speaks to media outside Queens County Criminal Court on Sunday. The senior Lewis is not convinced his son is a killer.
(Gardiner Anderson/for New York Daily News)
“Chanel would never have gone to do what they say he has done,” said Richard Lewis, 70, a retired elementary school teacher, at his house in East New York, Brooklyn.
“He would never have. He never had a fight in all his 20 years, at school he got great, great grades and opportunity from them.”
The younger Lewis lived with his dad at the time of the murder, in an apartment not far from where Vetrano’s body was found.
Arrest in Vetrano case throws spotlight on Google exec’s murder
The bewildered dad gave the Daily News a tour of his son’s bedroom, where an old report card showed good grades for behavior and academic performance.
Chanel Lewis graduated from Martin De Porres High School in Rockaway Park. The father recalled his son having been an honor student. He said he ultimately wanted to work in social services.
Also in the room was a small bicycle and photographs of the son when he was younger.
Lewis said he had compassion for Vetrano’s family, but he said their pain has nothing to do with his child.
Brooklyn man nabbed in slay of Queens jogger Karina Vetrano
“I’m sorry to hear about that,” Lewis said. “But I’m sure that he would not be a part of that.”
Even though prosecutors said Chanel Lewis confessed to the crime, the elder Lewis remained unconvinced.
“He wouldn’t have done whatever I heard,” Lewis said. “He wouldn’t have done it. Maybe it’s just his state of mind that he can’t understand. He has never had this in his whole life.”
A source close to the investigation said that Chanel Lewis was furious on Aug. 2 because too many people were staying in his house.
He bolted from the home with headphones in and went to Spring Creek Park.
“He was angry and was going to harm someone,” the source said.
Investigators said they believe the attack was a chance encounter, with Vetrano in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sources searching for a motive said their suspect had a documented hatred of women that was all talk before that August night.
Chanel Lewis wound up on cops’ radar after a lieutenant who lives in the neighborhood recalled a man acting suspiciously near the scene the previous spring.
Cops focused on him after reviewing 911 calls.
When cops caught up with their suspect, he voluntarily gave them a DNA sample — a swab from his cheek.
Lewis said he learned of his son’s arrest on television.
He described his child as humble.
- Join the Conversation: