The mother of the young man accused of killing Queens jogger Karina Vetrano last summer spoke to news media for the first time Wednesday and said her son needs mental health counselling, but would never harm anyone.
"I raised my son to be a God-fearing man and to respect life," Vita Lewis told reporters in Brooklyn, "My son is friendly, God-fearing and would not hurt anyone."
Police have charged Chanel Lewis, 20, with second-degree murder.
While insisting that her son isn't "a criminal," Vita Lewis said that he needs counselling.
"My son has a mental health problem and needs help," she said.
Lewis reportedly told NYPD detectives he hated Vetrano's predominantly white Queens neighborhood, Howard Beach, the Post said.
Lewis also refused twice to speak with a white detective, sources told the Post; when a black detective interviewed him, Lewis waived his Miranda rights and gave a confession on videotape to killing Vetrano on Aug. 2. He reportedly detailed how he had "hit" and "choked" the young woman while she was on a run through her neighborhood.
Sources told the Post that Lewis, a black man, splits his time between Brooklyn's East New York and Brownsville.
Metro previously reported that Lewis, whose DNA matched what investigators found under Vetrano's fingernails, may have also been motivated by rage.
Five years ago, when Lewis was still in high school, said he wanted to "stab all the girls," and had asked an aide at his Brooklyn school, "What would happen if I bring a knife to school?" according to an earlier Post report. Lewis was taken into custody as an "emotionally disturbed person."
On the day he murdered Vetrano, 30, Lewis told investigators, a noisy neighbor caused him to storm out of his mother's East New York home, according to DNAinfo. When he encountered Vetrano on a path inside Spring Park, he allegedly decided to take out his rage on her. Sources told the Post that Vetrano had "startled" Lewis.
On Tuesday afternoon, Vetrano's father Phil expressed his gratitude for the support he received through a GoFundMe page set up in his daughter's honor.
"As you all know by now we have caught this piece of s—. as we expected he is a loner looser [sic]. He will pay for his crime," Phil Vetrano wrote in an update to the campaign that raised more than $290,000.
Now, Phil Vetrano said their family is looking to donate the money, which was originally raised as a reward, to a good cause and is seeking the public's input.