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Killer 'Squeezed' The Life Out Of New York Jogger, Prosecutor Said In Graphic Opening Statements

Chanel Lewis is accused of brutally strangling Karina Vetrano, who went running alone in Queens after her normal jogging buddy, her father, chose to stay home.

By Jill Sederstrom
Karina Vetrano

Karina Vetrano was strangled, the life "squeezed" out of her, before her body was discarded in a desolate, weeded area, prosecutors said in their opening statements in the trial for her accused killer, Chanel Lewis.

"He placed his hands around her neck and he squeezed and he squeezed," Assistant District Attorney Brad Leventhal said according to the New York Post. "He strangled her until she was dead."

The 30-year-old had gone for a run after work in August 2016, but she would never return. She was found by her father later that night, lying dead on her stomach with her jogging shorts pulled down around her thighs.

"He fell to his knees hysterical and cradled her, lifted her to his chest," Leventhal told jurors of former firefighter Philip Vetrano's reaction to finding his daughter's body, according to the Post. "He will tell you she was stiff. He will tell you he knew her life was gone."

Leventhal described the brutal attack in gruesome detail as her mom, Cathie Vetrano, quietly sobbed and clutched a crucifix.

Vetrano had left for the jog around 5 p.m. on the evening of August 2, 2016. She'd asked her father, her regular running partner, to join her but he declined because his back had been bothering him.

His daughter told him, "Don't worry, daddy, it will be alright," Leventhal said, according to the Post.

“She was attacked brutally,” Leventhal told jurors of the attack in Howard Beach, Queens. ”Her attacker struggled with her. He pummeled her. He strangled her. He put his legs on her chest. Then she fought for her life. She struggled to get away.”

She was running in a desolate, undeveloped area of land when prosecutors say she was attacked by Lewis. Prosecuters allege that after killing her, Lewis dragged her body off the trail and into the weeds before taking her phone and earbuds and then abandoning the body, Fox News reports.

"This innocent victim was mercilessly beaten, and brutally killed," Leventhal said, according to the news organization.

Lewis' attorney, Jenny Chung, however, argued that her client was innocent and said an earlier taped confession had been coerced, Gothamist reports.

"This case was about rushing to judgment, about making assumptions," Lewis said, according to Fox News.

She pointed to what she believed was a lack of evidence—no witnesses to the crime and a lack of Lewis' fingerprints at the scene—and asked jurors to put aside their empathy and focus on the evidence.

"Pay close attention to the evidence," she said, according to Gothamist. "Pay attention to what the DNA evidence tells you and what it doesn't tell you."

The trial is expected to resume Tuesday.

[Photo: Instagram]

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