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Karina Vetrano Update: Here’s how police found her alleged killer

by Alan Duke, Reporter & 'Crime Stories With Nancy Grace' Co-host

Phil Vetrano, father of murdered Queens jogger Karina Vetrano, hoped a new DNA analysis strategy would find his daughter’s killer, but it turned out old fashion police work played a major role in nabbing a suspect. After comparing crime scene DNA to 600 samples, it was an odd encounter between a police lieutenant and a young man in the park where Vetrano, 30, was strangled that led to an arrest.

Accused killer Chanel Lewis is just 20 and his previous crimes include urinating in public, not serious enough to have put his DNA in the national database. But he consented when investigators asked him for a sample last week. They approached him on a hunch from the lieutenant who remembered stopping Lewis months earlier.

RELATED Reading: Karina Vetrano murder suspect admits to choking, dragging her in video confession — as legal aid says ‘don’t rush to judgment

Phil Vetrano had been pushing for New York’s crime commission to approve use of the controversial familial DNA strategy, which looks for DNA matches that might be related to the killer. If a family member’s DNA was in the database, which is comprised of convicted felons, then detectives could then target relatives as possible suspects. Civil libertarians argue the approach violates privacy rights.

This Crime Stories episode revisits Nancy Grace’s talk with Karina’s dad.

[Feature Photo: Handout]

Alan’s journalism career began as a way to pay for his plan to become a lawyer, but he soon realized being a courtroom reporter was a lot more fun than sitting at a defense table. Duke covered many of the nation’s most sensational crime stories over his 26 years at CNN. Duke’s closely covered domestic terrorism cases for CNN, including the Oklahoma City federal building bombing, the UNABOMBER and search for Southeast bomber Eric Robert Rudolph. CNN moved Duke to Los Angeles in 2009 to cover the entertainment beat, much of his time was spent talking to cops, coroners and lawyers. His reporting on the investigation that followed Michael Jackson’s death — and two subsequent trials — included many revelations about the singer’s life and death.   Since leaving CNN in 2014, Duke has contributed to the Reelz Channel “Copycat Killers” documentary series. He is a co-founder and editor-in-chief for LeadStories.com.