EAST NEW YORK — The man accused of strangling Karina Vetrano and dragging her body into a Howard Beach marsh told investigators that his rage was sparked earlier that day, after a neighbor was playing music too loudly, sources said.
Chanel Lewis, 20, who was arrested Saturday and confessed to the high-profile murder after a six-month investigation, said that he stormed off from his mother's Essex Street home in Brooklyn on of Aug. 2 and into Spring Creek into Howard Beach after a noisy neighbor kept blasting loud music, sources said.
He said he encountered Vetrano jogging in the marsh, and decided to take his rage out on her, according to sources.
He punched her in the face, knocking her down and then punched her five more times, he told investigators. Once she was unconscious, Lewis told investigators, he dragged her off the path into the weeds.
He denied sexually assaulting her and said that her clothes, which were nearly pulled off, were in disarray from dragging her.
Lewis's family, however, maintain he's innocent and that evidence against him has been concocted.
"He was a saint. He would never take another person's life," said Theresa Forbes, 36, the sister of Chanel Lewis who was arrested Saturday for the high-profile murder.
"He's not guilty. Tell them to look for the real killer," his mother told reporters outside their East New York home.
Lewis was described by his family as a quiet man who aspired to go to college.
But police and sources said that he had a history of violence against women and told his principal in 2011 that he wanted to "stab and kill his female classmates."
In her final moments, Vetrano scratched Lewis, collecting his DNA under her fingernails which investigators eventually matched to him, officials said.
But Forbes thinks the DNA evidence against her brother isn't real.
"I think they faked it," the sister said.
"He would never do something like this."
She said she believes her brother's arrest is somehow racially motivated.
But NYPD officials were certain of his guilt.
"We have a strong [DNA] profile on him," said Robert Boyce, the department's chief of detectives.
"It is accurate when it comes to that and that's what we have."
Lewis visited a hospital on Aug. 3, a day after the jogger's murder, claiming he was attacked and robbed by a group of people who injured his hand, sources said.
Law enforcement sources, however, believe he suffered the injury when Vetrano fought back.
Lewis' father didn't think much of the attack at the time, but told investigators when they came to question him.
But Forbes said Lewis wouldn't be able to physically overpower the fit Vetrano, who had been an avid runner since her high school days.
"He's a skinny guy. She's a strong person. He could never kill a person like that," Forbes said.
Lewis, who liked to listen to Drake and other hip hop artists, is a proud uncle to his nieces and never showed any animosity toward women, his sister said.
"He has nieces. He was very protective [of them]," Forbes said.
Forbes also said she doesn't believe her brother uses drugs or spent any time at Howard Beach.
Lewis, who's never been arrested before, received three tickets near the East New York entrance of the park dating back to 2013, officials said.