By David Brand
The father of Karina Vetrano, the 30-year-old woman killed while jogging near her Howard Beach home, took the stand for the second day in a row Wednesday to describe the events leading up to his daughter’s death.
Phil Vetrano began his emotional testimony on Tuesday in the retrial of Chanel Lewis, the East New York man accused of killing Karina during a random encounter in Spring Creek Park on Aug. 2, 2016.
“What I said today is exactly what I said before,” he told Assistant District Attorney Brad Leventhal after Leventhal asked if he had “tailored” his testimony in “any way shape or form” from his testimony in the first trial.
Phil, who wore a light purple shirt and purple tie under his suit jacket, said he put a fresh screen protector on Karina’s cellphone while she was in her bedroom eating a slice of pizza and changing before her jog. Leventhal played a surveillance video of Karina picking up food from a pizzeria on Cross Bay Boulevard earlier in the afternoon.
“Are you going to go in there?” Vetrano said he asked her, referring to Spring Creek Park. “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Vetrano had injured his back the day before and did not accompany her, he said
The next time he saw Karina was when he found her bruised body in a thicket of weeds, feet from the trail.
“I put my hands, my arms under her arms and picked her up towards me,” he said, adding that police officers nearby pulled him away.
“I got her up and if felt like instantaneous that they were swarmed all over me,” Vetrano said during cross examination by defense attorney Julia Burke.
Burke also asked Vetrano about a phone call he made to his wife Cathie before picking up Karina from an Ozone Park train station around 4:30 that afternoon.
Vetrano told Cathie, who testified Tuesday, to lock the doors to the home after he saw three people on dirtbikes along Cross Bay Boulevard, about three-quarters of a mile from the site where Karina’s body was discovered.
“I saw kids on dirt bikes riding down Cross Bay Boulevard,” Vetrano said. “She wasn’t feeling well and she has a tendency not to lock the doors.”
The phone call about the dirt bikers was not mentioned during the first trial, which ended in a split jury
Lewis is charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder and aggravated sexual abuse — on which the first-degree murder charge is predicated. He faces up to life in prison if convicted on the top charge.