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Karina Vetrano murder : Man beat jogger so hard her teeth broke, court hears

Ryan Butcher
Karina Vetrano from Queens was found dead on 2 August 2016 after going for a jog: Facebook

The family of a New York jogger broke down in court as the man accused of killing their daughter coldly confessed to beating and strangling her in the final moments of her life.

Cathie and Philip Vetrano heard the accused Chanel Lewis explain that he struck Karina Vetrano so hard that her teeth broke.

In a pre-taped confession, Mr Lewis said he “lost it” and grabbed the 30-year-old from Queens as she ran past him through a marshy swamp along a bike path in Spring Creek Park.

He added that she clawed at his face as he hit her five times before knocking her unconscious and strangling her as she lay face-up in a puddle.

“She didn’t yell. She was finished,” said the 21-year-old in the video being played to the court.

“I finished her off, I strangled her. She fell into the puddle and drowned. I got up and wiped off the blood. And she was calm, she was in the pool of water.”

The confession was recorded back in February 2017 after Mr Lewis spent the night in a police precinct watching cartoons. It was played on Monday at a pre-trial hearing in Queens Supreme Court to determine if it is admissible as evidence.

As the Vetrano family watched, the distraught mother let out an anguished moan and clutched a foot-long, golden crucifix to her face, according the to New York Post. The victim’s sister Tana bared her teeth at Mr Lewis as she cried.

After telling police how he “was mad” and “saw red”, Mr Lewis seemed to think that he could pay his way out of his murder charges.

“I can straighten my stuff out?” he asked the prosecutor. “You’re the DA right? Where do we go from here? Is there a restitution program or something?”

Despite Ms Vetrano being found with her jogging shorts around her ankles, Mr Lewis insists he didn’t molest her and that her clothes fell off in the fight.

“I didn’t do any of the stuff they said, sexual assault and stuff like that,” he said during his confession.

He then explained how he walked home up the bike path “shaken up”, hoping to get some napkins to stop the bleeding from the scratches Ms Vetrano had left on his face.

When asked why he attacked Ms Vetrano, Mr Lewis confusingly told cops it was “because a guy moved into my house and the neighbourhood.”

Philip Vetrano told the New York Post Mr Lewis’ family left the room as the tape of his confession was played.

“We know where the coward got his cowardliness from,” he said. “The truth hurts. It’s pathetic. It’s just so tomorrow they can say their offspring is not guilty.”

Mr Lewis was arrested on 4 February and initially refused to speak to police, asking instead to watch TV.

Last month Mr Lewis’ attorney said he no longer intended to pursue a psychiatric defence after doctors determined that he is not legally insane, according to the New York Post.

“Our doctor doesn’t feel [Mr Lewis] fits the criteria for being legally insane,” lawyer Robert Moeller told reporters.

“Not that [Mr Lewis] doesn’t have a mental illness or disability, but it doesn’t rise to the point of mental insanity. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a problem.”

The lawyer has also cast doubt on Mr Lewis’ confession, claiming it was only given after he had been in custody “for nearly 24 hours”.

Mr Lewis denies first-degree murder but faces life behind bars if convicted.