Supporters of Chanel Lewis, the 20-year-old Brooklyn man accused of murdering Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano, gathered outside a Queens courthouse Tuesday to voice support, complain of problems raising money, and question the reliability of the NYPD.
Lewis was excused from a brief hearing inside Queens State Supreme Court before his supporters spoke.
Vetrano’s family members attended the 30-second hearing in the case, which was adjourned until April 3.
Assistant District Attorney Brad Leventhal said there had been no plea bargaining and indicated the case still was before a grand jury.
Police arrested Lewis earlier this month and charged him with second-degree murder in connection with the Aug. 2 strangulation of the 30-year-old Vetrano as she jogged through Spring Creek Park near her Howard Beach home.
Cops took Lewis into custody after a sample of his DNA matched genetic material found on Vetrano’s body, police said, adding that he also made incriminating statements.
Supporters of Lewis, who has been described in reports as a psychologically troubled youth, called on reporters to be fair to his family. His parents Richard and Veta Lewis did not speak during the meeting with reporters.
“We want to make sure all of the facts regarding this case are facts and not fabricated, ” said local clergyman Rev. Kevin McCall. “We are calling for justice to be rendered and due process to be served with this family.”
McCall took offense at some media reports he said demonized Lewis, who was unemployed and living with his mother in East New York at the time of his arrest.
“How can you call someone a demon . . . that has not been through the system before?” McCall asked, referring to Lewis’ lack of a prior criminal record.
Earlier, McCall said “we don’t trust the police department because they have done things time and time again.”
Community activist Chris Banks said: “We want justice for the [Vetrano] family but we want due process for Chanel.”
An NYPD spokesman said the department stood firmly behind the criminal investigation, specifically the scientific evidence that has led investigators to believe in the case against Lewis.
Another activist, Floyd Jarvis, said a GoFundMe page set up to raise money for the Lewis family had been shutdown for unknown reasons and $1,700 returned to donors.
He added that another funding page had been set up to help the family was suspended for reasons that also were unclear to Lewis’ supporters.
A law enforcement official who didn’t want to be named said the court adjournment was an indication of the legal complexity of the case and an effort to give the Legal Aide Society, which is representing Lewis, time to do its investigation.
In a separate interview after the hearing Tuesday, Vetrano’s father, Philip Vetrano, told Newsday he and his family “want due process and due process quickly. We are not a lynch mob.”