A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post on how the Queens DA had sent a request to the New York State Commissioner of Criminal Justice Services asking for permission to use familial searching of DNA to help solve the murder of Karina Vetrano, a thirty-year-old jogger who was brutally raped and murdered while out for a run on Howard Beach. Basically, what happened here is the police have DNA from the crime scene, but it doesn’t match anyone in the CODIS database. They wanted the state of New York to allow them to search for familial hits in the system to try to track down their killer. For example, maybe someone related to the killer has been arrested of a felony and if they could find a familial hit, it could lead them to their killer. I’ve been keeping tabs on this case, as while I agree that allowing law enforcement to use familial DNA searches could help solve a lot of crimes that have gone unsolved for years, I also worry it is a slippery slope when it comes to an individual’s right to privacy.
Well, word comes today that police seem to have found their man without having to go this route. According to police, they arrested a suspect yesterday. Twenty-year-old Chanel Lewis, of East New York, was zeroed in on in recent weeks, after police reviewed local stop and frisk reports from the area. Apparently, Lewis had been stopped and questioned by police last year after he’d been seen acting suspiciously by neighbors. Detectives visited his house last week and asked him to submit a sample of DNA, which he gave up freely. Days later, when the lab results matched Lewis’s DNA from the scene of the crime, he was immediately detained for questioning. According to police, during the interview, Lewis made “detailed, incriminating statements” about his involvement and now faces pending charges with Vetrano’s sexual assault and murder. He is expected to be arraigned later today.
I am absolutely elated that the Vetrano family can now begin the process of obtaining justice for their daughter. And the fact that it seems old-fashioned police work has solved the case is the cherry on top of the pie. At this point, it’s unclear if this arrest could have come any sooner had familial DNA searching in CODIS been legal in New York, but I am sure this is something police will be looking into further in the upcoming days.