Man Sentenced to 25 Years to Life for 2004 Murder of 17-Year-Old Bushwick Girl

Tuesday, September 7, 2018


Man Sentenced to 25 Years to Life for 2004 Murder of 17-Year-Old Bushwick Girl

DNA Found on Victim’s Fingernails Led to Conviction 14 Years After Homicide

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a 40-year-old man was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the 2004 murder of Sharabia Thomas, a teenager from Bushwick, Brooklyn. A DNA analysis of cells found on the victim’s fingernails, conducted in 2016, was a match to the defendant, leading to his arrest and conviction.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “Thanks to DNA technology and hard work by Cold Case detectives and my prosecutors, we were able to obtain justice for Sharabia and bring a small measure of closure to her loved-ones, who have been waiting many years. I am determined to continue looking back into the past to hold violent offenders responsible for their crimes and to promote public safety.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Kwauhuru Govan, 40, formerly of Gates Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn. He was sentenced today by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Joanne Quinones to 25 years to life in prison following his conviction last month of second-degree murder after a jury trial.

The District Attorney said that, according to trial testimony, the naked body of Sharabia Thomas, 17, was discovered on the afternoon of February 11, 2004 inside two laundry bags on the side of an alleyway adjacent to 130 Palmetto Street in Bushwick. The victim suffered blunt force trauma to her head, face and torso and had visible ligature marks on her wrists and ankles. The cause of death was determined to be asphyxia by neck compression.

The investigation determined that Sharabia did not go to school that day and was last seen alive earlier that morning when her siblings left for school. DNA testing in 2004, using swabs from the sexual assault evidence kit, yielded no results.

In June 2016, the NYPD’s Cold Case Squad and the District Attorney’s Cold Case Unit requested that fingernail clippings taken from the victim at the time of the autopsy be located and tested for DNA. A full male profile was developed from DNA that was discovered on multiple nails from both hands, the evidence showed. It was uploaded to the national DNA database which is maintained by the FBI and matched the defendant, whose DNA was entered into the database following a 2014 arrest for an armed robbery in Polk County, Florida.

The defendant was arrested in November 2016 upon his release from a Florida prison and was subsequently extradited to Brooklyn. In a statement, the defendant, who resided about two blocks from Sharabia’s home in 2004, denied knowing the victim.

A notebook found in his prison belongings contained a sketch of a chair-like device, designed by the defendant, that is meant to restrain women during sexual encounters. The ligature markings found on the victim matched the restraints in the design.

The defendant is also facing a separate indictment for the 2005 murder of 19-year-old Rashawn Brazell. That case is pending.

The case was investigated by New York City Police Department Detectives Evelin Guiterrez and Jason Palamara of the NYPD Cold Case Squad, under the supervision of Lieutenant David Nilsen and Lieutenant Dennis Klein of the NYPD Cold Case Squad.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Leila Rosini, of the District Attorney’s Homicide Bureau, and Assistant District Attorney Danielle Reddan, of the District Attorney’s Grey Zone Trial Bureau, under the supervision Assistant District Attorney Timothy Gough, Homicide Bureau Chief, and Rachel Singer, Chief of the District Attorney’s Cold Case Unit.