If you’re from New York City, you’ve heard the story of Karina Vetrano, the young woman who was found sexually assaulted and strangled in Spring Creek Park. Almost out of the blue, the NYPD have charged 20-year Chanel Lewis with her murder. The minute I looked at the young man, I knew something wasn’t right.
What kind of guilty person gives DNA and a confession without any legal counsel? It’s not clear if Mr. Lewis has any disabilities, but according to the New York Times, he attended a high school for students who, ‘struggle with internal and external factors beyond their control that have contributed to a failure to thrive in school.’ So at the very least, he had to deal with challenges that made attendance in a traditional high school not possible, and perhaps he’s graduation in 2015, remarkable. Since graduating, he wasn’t employed and lived with his mother; no criminal record or disciplinary record in school, so how did police make a connection? Through an anonymous tip? A witness who heard him say something incriminating? Nope. A cop remembered seeing him in the park and thought it was ‘suspicious’. Read the article.
In it, sources are quoted as saying that Lt. John Russo claimed to have seen Lewis back in May, called 911, but the man left before police arrived (so there’s no record that the man he saw was even Mr. Lewis). He alleges that he saw him the next day, and the police arrived in enough time to record the encounter, but nothing more as he was not charged with any wrongdoing. For those of you unfamiliar with being black in Howard Beach, the general rule is-don’t be. If you need evidence: Police recorded an encounter with someone doing NOTHING wrong except being ‘suspicious’ (i.e, black) in a white neighborhood.
Now, with his name in police record, someone calls 911 again and mentions Lewis by name saying that he looks like he was going to break into a Howard Beach home with a crowbar. This is not a neighborhood he lives in and yet the caller knew him by name? Now that is suspicious. Fast forward a couple of months and we now have a viable scapegoat: wrong place at the right time: check; issues of any kind: check; Black: check. What Lewis lacked, however, was criminality. So what happens? Reports of him making threats while in school are reported in the NY Post and the NY Times quotes, Chief Robert Boyce saying, that they found, ‘some things that disturbed us.‘ Ultimately, as the article mentions, the executive director of his school stated that they were no reports of him making threatening statements. Mmmmh…
After tracking him down, police get a DNA sample voluntarily from Lewis and found that his samples were “‘strong profiles’ that matched evidence from the victim’s body and her cellphone”. When DNA matches, you say it matches; when you say anything else, you’re playing semantics and when you’re playing semantics, you’re lying. Chief Boyce also says that Lewis gave ‘detailed incriminating statements,’ but not a confession. Lewis hasn’t entered a plea, but is being held without bail. He currently has legal representation and my hope is that they find evidence that he was somewhere else at the time, not because I want an alleged killer to ‘get away with it,’ but because I believe the evidence was cobbled together and pinned on a vulnerable person to appease people desperate for resolution. Peace of mind is a worthy cause, but at what cost?