Veta Lewis still thinks of her son as a compassionate, church-going young man — and not the monster charged with the rape and killing of a Queens jogger.
“God didn’t give me a murderer,” the mother insisted Friday in a Daily News interview. “We are all God-fearing people. I know my son is innocent and never would have done something like this.”
Her only son Chanel, 20, was arrested nearly two months ago for the brutal August 2016 attack on Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano as she ran along a remote path near her home.
Cops said Chanel Lewis confessed to the horrific crime, and his DNA was recovered from under the victim’s fingernails.
Veta Lewis, 56, the mother of murder suspect Chanel Lewis, sits with community activist Chris Banks as she talks to The News Friday about her son.
(Jesse Ward/for New York Daily News)
Lewis, 56, sent along her sympathy to the victim’s family.
“As a mother, I could feel the mother’s pain and what she’s going through and I know she’s having that pain, carrying it daily because her daughter is not here anymore and she will never see her daughter again,” said Lewis.
Asked if she wanted to meet with the Vetranos, she said that was “a tough one. I don’t know how they would react.”
Mom Cathy Vetrano, peeking out the slightly ajar front door of her home, passed on the question of a get-together with Veta Lewis.
“No, no, we don’t want to comment. Thank you,” she said before shutting the door.
Lewis, a Jamaican immigrant who works as a nursing assistant, recalled how she was always close with her son.
“He was very overprotective of me,” Lewis told The News. “Like today he would make sure I took a cab and not walk in the rain. He would tell jokes, hug me, kiss me, take me grocery shopping, we would go to church together.”
Lewis said the absence of her son, held without bail since his Feb. 5 arrest, left her with a feeling of emptiness.
“To look at his clothes, his bed, his shoes — it’s like he died,” she said, her voice cracking as she wiped away tears. “I’m not doing well … but I’m a God-fearing woman, praying for justice.”
The shocking death of 30-year-old Karina Vetrano sparked a wide-reaching manhunt for her rapist and killer, culminating in Lewis’ arrest.
Lewis said Chanel was surviving behind bars while awaiting his day in court.
“He has good and bad days,” said Lewis, who also has two daughters and two granddaughters. “He says the food is OK. He’s very calm, respects the officers and tells me not to get upset with them because they’re just doing their jobs.”
Vetrano’s body was found in the high weeds alongside the path where she went for a summer evening jog. Her dad Philip found his daughter hours later, about 15 feet off the well-worn trail.
Parents Veta (front r.) and Richard Lewis (back r., in silver suit) held a press conference at Queens Borough Hall after their son’s Feb. 21 hearing.
(Byron Smith/for New York Daily News)
Cops said Lewis jumped and overpowered the victim, raping and strangling the Queens woman despite her desperate fight for survival.
But Lewis said her son preferred the city’s streets to overgrown stretches like the one where Vetrano was killed.
“Listen — my son was not in no bushes, he was afraid of bugs, spiders things like that, scared to hell,” she said. “Even in Jamaica he would run away from bugs.”
Rather than hurt people, Chanel Lewis at one point wanted to work as a nurse.
“Seeing people sick, he’d want to change how people would feel,” the murder suspect’s mother recalled. As a child, he kept pet fish and loved both dogs and cats.
Lewis insists that people around the city share her view of Chanel’s innocence, cab drivers and subway riders who stop to speak with her.
“I’ve even had strangers who recognize me come up to me, praying for me because even they can’t believe (the charges),” she said. “It brings tears to my eyes.
“Black, white, all different people tell me that.”
Source: Ny Daily News