A Queens judge Thursday prodded defense attorneys for the man accused of killing Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano to quickly wrap up the psychological examination of their client.
“Have your psychological expert submit the report so that we don’t delay this proceeding,” state Supreme Court Justice Gregory Lasak told the Legal Aid Society lawyers representing accused killer Chanel Lewis.
As Lasak spoke, a still grieving and angry Catherine Vetrano sat in the courtroom clutching the crucifix that had been atop her daughter’s casket at her August 2016 funeral. She leaned forward and constantly stared at Lewis during the brief hearing as her husband Philip gently touched her shoulder.
Defense attorney Robert Moeller told Lasak he expected the report to be done after his expert conducts one more interview session with Lewis on Sept. 15. Prosecutors can’t do their own examination of Lewis until the defense expert’s report is done and ready for review.
A spokesman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Thursday it was unclear if the defense expert was examining Lewis about his competency to stand trial or whether he was mentally ill when he allegedly strangled and sexually assaulted Karina Vetrano.
Lasak scheduled an Oct. 5 conference on the case but no trial date has been set. It was unclear if any relatives of Lewis attended Thursday’s hearing.
An avid jogger, Vetrano, 30, was slain sometime on the night of Aug. 2, 2016 as she did a short practice run in Spring Creek Park near her home. Vetrano was training for a marathon later that year in Havana, said her father, who normally ran with his daughter but didn’t the night she died due to an injury.
After Vetrano didn’t return home from her run, police launched an intense search of the park. Philip Vetrano and police found his daughter’s body later that night in some park weeds. Investigators said she also had been beaten. Police recovered unknown DNA from her body, authorities said.
Following a six-month investigation, NYPD detectives arrested Lewis, now 21, of Brooklyn, after they said his DNA matched that found on Vetrano. Police also said in court documents that Lewis admitted beating and strangling Vetrano because he was “just mad at that time.”
After leaving the courtroom, Catherine Vetrano walked up to news photographers and showed them her left forearm, now emblazoned with a tattooed likeness of her daughter. A court officer appeared to think she was making a threatening gesture and told her to stop. Vetrano explained she only wanted to show the tattoo.