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New York man to face murder charge in killing of Queens jogger

By David Ingram















By David Ingram

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York authorities were preparing on Sunday to charge a man arrested over the weekend in last summer's killing and sexual assault of a 30-year-old female jogger on an isolated running path in the borough of Queens, officials said.

Police late on Saturday arrested Chanel Lewis, 20, an unemployed resident of Brooklyn with no prior criminal record. Prosecutors would charge him with murder and sexual assault after the necessary papers are prepared, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

The killing of Karina Vetrano in the quiet Howard Beach section of the borough drew intense media attention in August and was followed by growing frustration when the months-long investigation produced no suspects.

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The woman's death stirred anxiety in a city where crime rates have fallen in recent years, and fear that an era when random violence was more common could return.

Investigators said on Sunday that they do not believe that Lewis and the victim knew each other and had no evidence that Lewis had stalked her, New York Police Department Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said.

"It appears to be a chance encounter," he said.

It was not immediately clear if Lewis had a lawyer.

On Aug. 2 Vetrano had told her father, a retired New York firefighter, she was going out for a run and never returned home, according to media reports.

Her father was with detectives when her body was found, the New York Daily News reported.

Boyce said that police began looking into Lewis after a resident complained about him as a suspicious person in the area. Boyce said Lewis made "detailed, incriminating statements" about Vetrano's killing and then provided a DNA sample that matched genetic material found under her nails.

The park where she was found in Howard Beach is secluded, and there is little crime reported in the area, Boyce said.

"This is very unusual. This is a very rural part of New York City," he said.

Days after Vetrano's death, a 27-year-old Google employee was found slain in the woods in Massachusetts after leaving for a jog. The death of Vanessa Marcotte remains unsolved. There is no evidence connecting the two cases, according to authorities.

New York City had 335 murders reported during 2016, down 5 percent from a year earlier, police said. The record for the fewest murders since the city started keeping reliable statistics in 1963 was 328 in 2014.

Years with more than 2,000 reported murders used to be routine in New York.

(Reporting by David Ingram in New York; Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Calif.; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Alan Crosby)

 
 
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