A desperate six-month quest for leads in the grisly death of the young “Queens jogger” Karina Vetrano came to an end this weekend as the NYPD expressed confidence they captured the killer.
The DNA ofChanel Lewis, 20,taken into custody Saturday matches what investigators found under Vetrano’s fingernails, police said. He was arrested outside his Brooklyn home.
Lewis had voluntarily submitted to a DNA test during police questioning on Thursday, leading investigators to link him to evidence taken from the victim and from the back of hercellphone found after the Aug. 2 assault, official said at a news briefing Sunday.
Vetrano, 30, had gone for jog when she went missing from her Howard Beach home where she lived with her parents. When she didn’t return home, her father went looking for her and discovered her body facedown in the weeds of Spring Creek Park while he was combing the area with the police.
An autopsy confirmed that she was beaten, strangled and sexually assaulted, and had put up a vigorous fight.
Officials said they have “a solid case” against Lewis, including“detailed incriminating statements and admissions,” he made during interrogations, NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said.
For months following her death, Vetrano’s parents Phil and Cathy Vetrano pleaded for tips and offered rising amounts of reward money for any information leading to an arrest.
“I’m not gonna say it’s a good day, but we can move forward now,” Phil Vetrano told CBS New York. “We are at a place we were never at. We know who did this.”
The distraught parents set up a GoFundMe website campaign to raise reward money, which included contributions from the city.
“He’s a savage, and I’m glad that he’s off the street so he doesn’t kill anyone else’s daughter,” Cathy Vetrano said. “I would like to thank my community of Howard Beach that has been unbelievably supportive.”
“I’m literally shaking right now,” a close friend of Vetrano’s told the New York Daily News. “I want to see his face. I want to see if I know him.”
Police were tipped off to Lewis from an anonymous 911 call reporting his suspicious behavior.
Boyce said they believe the victim and Lewis did not know each other, and that the deadly encounter was likely a random one.
Lewis, unemployed, has no prior arrest record. His father had told the Daily News that he was a good student in high school.
Lewis is expected to be arraigned on charges of murder and sexual assault.
“This is a great day for the community and the detectives that worked day in and day out, and of course it will hopefully bring some closure to the Vetrano family,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said at a news conference at the 106th Precinct on Sunday.
Reuters contributed to this report.