A judge in Queens on Tuesday sentenced Chanel Lewis to life behind bars without the possibility of parole.
He was convicted earlier this month in the murder of Karina Vetrano.
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Chanel Lewis’ mother yelled at Queens prosecutors as they left the courthouse, distraught about her son being sentenced to life in prison without parole. Inside the courtroom, Lewis told the judge he wasn’t guilty.
"Only thing I wanna say is that I'm innocent,” Chanel Lewis said. “I'm sorry for the family's loss, but I didn't do this."
But the Vetrano family wasn’t buying that.
Karina’s parents and siblings told the judge and Lewis they felt like they were killed the day 30-year-old Karina Vetrano was sexually assaulted and strangled while jogging in Spring Creek Park.
"My hope is that you live a long life within the prison of the law and the prison of your conscience, and when the time comes that you face our Heavenly Father, I assure you, you will not fool Him with your lies,” Cathie Vetrano said to Chanel. “He knows exactly what you did on the evening of August 2, 2016."
Chanel Lewis twice confessed to the murder and traces of his DNA were found on Vetrano's body. But Lewis' mother and her son's supporters say her son, who attended a school for people with emotional and behavioral disabilities, was framed. They allege this was a racist investigation that targeted a black man.
“All we wanted to do is find the killer,” said Phil Vetrano, Karina’s father. “We never wanted to make a race thing out of this ever. To us it still isn’t.”
Lewis' supporters say they plan to protest at Howard Beach. His legal aid lawyers are appealing the conviction in his second trial. The first trial ended with a hung jury.
After the sentencing, two supporters were arrested for acts of civil disobedience as they blocked traffic in front of the courthouse.