QUEENS — A Queens courtroom was filled Monday as opening statements began in the murder trial of the man accused of strangling and sexually assaulting 30-year-old Karina Vetrano.
Emotions ran high, especially when prosecutors placed pictures of the crime scene, including Vetrano’s body into evidence.
Vetrano’s mom held a cross with tears in her eyes.
Police say back in August 2016, as Vetrano jogged near her Howard Beach home, Chanel Lewis, now 22, attacked and murdered her.
He’s on trial facing murder and sex assault charges.
His mother was also in the courtroom, holding a bible, praying as prosecutors presented their case to jurors.
Investigators say Lewis confessed to killing Vetrano and DNA links him to the crime.
They also say internet searches and pictures about Karina Vetrano was found Lewis’ cellphone, before he was arrested.
But defense attorneys with the the Legal Aide Society representing Lewis told jurors Lewis is innocent and they have serious doubts about the evidence, adding there are no witnesses and saying he was coerced into confessing.
They argued that people are rushing to judgement.
Two witnesses also took the stand – an NYPD Detective who found Vetrano’s cellphone and a friend of the Vetrano family who was with her father when he found his daughter’s body.
Both described an unforgettable scream Vetrano’s father let out when he made the gruesome discovery.
Vetrano’s mother didn’t say anything to reporters as she left the courthouse.
“We know Chanel is innocent and we will support the family,” said Lewis’ spokesperson, Charles Banks.
Lewis has plead not guilty. If convicted faces up to 25 years in prison.
His trial resumes Wednesday.