Suspect in 2005 cold case killing of dismembered Brooklyn teen linked to 2nd teen slaying
BROOKLYN, New York (WPIX) -- An amazing revelation came in Brooklyn Supreme Court Wednesday in the cold-case killing and dismemberment of Brooklyn teen Rashawn Brazell, whose body parts were found in trash bags in 2005 in a subway tunnel.
It turns out the accused, Kwauhuru Govan, was charged in November 2016 with the 2004 murder of 17-year-old Sharabia Thomas, who had disappeared on her way to school in Bedford-Stuyvesant for a field trip.
Investigators say it is not clear if Govan is a serial killer.
"We've charged him with two murders. ... There may be more," the NYPD chief of detectives said Wednesday.
Thomas' body was found in two laundry bags in an alley on Palmetto Street, a day after she vanished in February 2004.
A year later, on Feb. 17, 2005, Brazell's body parts were found in trash bags in a subway tunnel on the A line in Brooklyn.
Govan has been a person of interest in the Brazell case for six months; he was brought to court from Rikers Island Wednesday morning to be charged in the teen's death.
The 38-year-old suspect was literally dragged into the courtroom, against his will, by NYPD Detectives and court officers, yelling to the assembled camera crews that he was being framed. Govan wondered out loud how President Donald Trump would feel about his treatment.
Govan had refused to allow police to fingerprint him in this second murder case, so the judge told Govan to go back to jail and he would be returned to court tomorrow.
DNA evidence found under the fingernails of Thomas tied Govan to her murder
PIX11 News broke the story about Govan's arrest in the 2004 Thomas case in November, when he was stopped at a prison door in Florida. He was about to be released after serving time for a robbery conviction there.
Govan denied knowing Thomas, but he was brought to New York by NYPD cold-case detectives and charged with her murder.
Now, the Brooklyn District Attorney's office is connecting the Brazell's unsolved killing to Govan.
Brazell was 19 years old when he was last seen on Valentine's Day in 2005.
He was supposed to meet his mother, Desire, for lunch when he went missing, but instead his body parts were discovered three days later in a subway tunnel on the A line in Brooklyn, between the Nostrand and Franklin Avenue stations.
Brazell's torso, legs and one arm were found in trash bags in the subway tunnel. Another arm and hand were discovered a couple of days later at a Greenpoint, Brooklyn recycling plant.
His head was never recovered.
"It was cut with precision," former Brooklyn Homicide Detective Richard Amato told PIX11 about Brazell's body. "Someone who had knowledge of the anatomy did this."
Brazell's case was featured on the nationally televised crime show "America's Most Wanted" three different times, but the case continued to confound police and prosecutors for a dozen years.
District Attorney Eric Gonzalez plans to hold a news briefing with the victim's mother, Desire, who is a social service worker, after the court hearing.
PIX11 interviewed Desire Brazell in 2014 for a Mary Murphy Mystery segment.
At the time, Brazell tearfully told PIX11, "I don't want him to be just the face on the poster," referring to the Crime Stoppers flyers that were plastered at subway stations on the anniversary of the crime, promising $22,000 in reward money.
Rashawn Brazell was gay and highly charismatic, and there were conflicting theories about what the motive for the crime was.
But there was no doubt the murder was gruesome.
Brazell was last seen leaving his family's apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn about 7:30 a.m. on Feb. 14, 2005, walking toward the Gates Avenue elevated train station.
It is not clear whether he ever got on the train.
"I didn't get to look on him again," Desire Brazell told PIX11 through tears in 2014.
Detectives found a key piece of evidence in the case early on: a black, Rooster brand tool bag that had the victim's blood inside, among tool bits. The bag used to be sold by Lowe's.
The then-unsolved case became the focus of a documentary by filmmaker Terik King, who called the project "Rashawn's Desire: The Untold Story of Rashawn Brazell."
In the documentary, Rashawn's high school principal recalled that Rashawn used to work at Burger King and other jobs, trying to earn a living.
"I learned about his charitable nature, and that's not something typical for a 19-year-old," King told PIX11. "I think Shawn had a blind spot when it came to how evil people could be."
There was a scholarship in Rashawn Brazell's name, and the man who was running the fund got a taunting message one year that sounded like a confession from the then-unknown killer.
"The tone of it was, 'he wasn't an angel, I paid someone to do it,'" Terik King told PIX11.
Desire Brazell is haunted by the feeling that her son was held against his will and tortured before his murder.
"I just go over in my head, there was nothing I could do for him," she said.