‘He strangled her until she was dead’
ENDURING a prosecutor's blow-by-blow of the horrific final moments of her daughter's life proved gruelling for the mother of a New York woman murdered while out for an after-work run.
Karina Vetrano's mum, Cathie, sobbed silently as assistant district attorney Brad Leventhal told the court how accused killer Chanel Lewis, 22, "squeezed" the life out of her 30-year-old daughter, reports the New York Post.
Ms Vetrano was murdered while out on a solo run at 5pm on August 2, 2016, on a remote dirt path through some marshland - despite her dad's warning not to jog there alone.
"He placed his hands around her neck and he squeezed and he squeezed," Mr Leventhal told the court in his opening statement at Mr Lewis' murder trial. "He strangled her until she was dead."
Mr Lewis has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge.
It only got harder for the Vetrano family members as prosecutors displayed gruesome enlarged photos of Karina lying dead on her stomach with her buttocks exposed, and her jogging shorts pulled down around her thighs.
"Oh my God," one family member gasped before the clan huddled together, unable to look at the evidence being displayed for the court.
Amid a police search of the desolate stretch, her former firefighter father, Philip Vetrano, found his daughter's body in the high-weeded area in Queens at about 10.30pm, sources told The Post at the time.
Philip, who was not in the courtroom Monday because he is expected to testify this week, screamed after making the gruesome discovery.
"He fell to his knees hysterical and cradled her, lifted her to his chest," the prosecutor said. "He will tell you she was stiff. He will tell you he knew her life was gone.
"His little girl was gone and she wasn't coming home," Mr Leventhal told the court.
Mr Leventhal said Philip Vetrano, who regularly ran with his daughter, told her he couldn't join her that evening because his back was hurting. But, Mr Leventhal told the court, his daughter assured him: "'Don't worry Daddy, it will be all right.'"
But she never made it home.
Mr Lewis groped at, pulled and ripped Ms Vetrano's clothing as she fought for her life during the struggle, the prosecutor alleged. Authorities said that after he allegedly beat and strangled her, he dragged Ms Vetrano's limp body into the dense brush before dumping her there and then disappearing.
"She fought for her life. She tried to get away but he overpowered her," Mr Leventhal said.
Prosecutors said Mr Lewis had pictures of Ms Vetrano and the crime scene on his phone. He also had photos of his hand injuries that were taken shortly after the incident.
At the hospital, the defendant told staff he hurt his hand while jogging in the park, Mr Leventhal said.
He was arrested six months later and prosecutors allege his DNA matched evidence found on the victim.
"The evidence in this case is overwhelming," Mr Leventhal said.
In her openings, defence lawyer Jenny Cheung said the evidence will prove even the state is not entirely sure about what unfolded that afternoon.
There was no eyewitness and even the DNA evidence is disputable, insisted the lawyer.
"They are putting a square peg in a round hole. They are twisting facts to suit the theory instead of twisting the theory to fit the facts," Ms Cheung said, adding mistakes and assumptions were made during the process.
"This awful crime was not committed by this young man," she said.
The family did not speak after the proceeding.
The trial will resume on Wednesday.