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Brooklyn man Kwauhuru Govan charged in cold-case murder

Kwauhuru Govan is restrained in Brooklyn Superior Court

Kwauhuru Govan is restrained in Brooklyn Superior Court during his arraignment for the murder of Rashawn Brazell on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. Credit: Barry Williams

A Brooklyn man, already a suspect in one New York City murder, has now been charged in the grisly slaying and dismemberment of a teenager over a decade ago in a case that may be the tip of a larger serial killer investigation, officials said Wednesday.

Kwauhuru Govan, 38, was carried shackled and ranting by court officers into Brooklyn Supreme Court on Wednesday just after noon, but could not be arraigned for the 2005 killing of Rashawn Brazell, 19, because he refused to be fingerprinted.

Surrounded by guards who kept him from getting up, Govan repeatedly complained to Judge Neil Firetog that he was being “framed” and that he had been assaulted on the way into court.

“Because I’m not allowing them to print me that gives them the right to assault me?” Govan shouted. “Is that in the Constitution?”

“I am innocent! They are framing me!” he told Firetog.

About an hour later, acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and NYPD officials held a news conference to spell out how a combination of DNA technology and detective work led to Govan’s arrest in the slaying of Brazell.

Govan had been arrested late last year in another cold-case – the 2004 slaying of Sharabia Thomas, 17, who was last seen leaving her Gates Avenue home on February 11 of that year. Her intact body was found inside two laundry bags later that day, said police.

Police identified Govan as a suspect in Thomas’s slaying after DNA found under her fingernails proved to be a match to him after he was arrested in 2014 in Florida for a robbery, explained Gonzalez. Govan’s DNA was entered into a national database after that arrest and matched the genetic material found on Thomas, he added.

Gonzalez and NYPD chief of detectives Robert Boyce were limited in what they could say about the Brazell investigation because Govan’s arraignment in that case was delayed, but a law enforcement source said that after he was taken into custody on the Thomas case investigators realized he had lived across the street from Brazell.

They were able to determine, the source said, that a container with Brazell’s blood on it that had been found in the subways in 2005 had belonged to Govan. And police also found inconsistencies in statements Govan made about the Brazell case and developed other witnesses, Boyce indicated.

Boyce said the NYPD cold case squad was conducting an expanded investigation of other open homicide cases to see if there are any links with Govan, including those in the Metropolitan area. Another law enforcement source said cops are looking at least one more city homicide.

Asked if detectives were looking at Govan as a possible serial killer, Boyce replied: “there is a great possibility that might be the case.”

New York City alone has hundreds of open cold case homicides, including many in Brooklyn, said one detective.

Gonzalez said the investigation is leading to an expansion of his forensic science and cold case unit which, in the last eight months, has solved three homicides with the NYPD.

“It is a long time in the coming,” said Gonzalez about the arrest of Govan in the Brazell case. “We feel very confident about the evidence in this case.”

“These are very difficult cases and we are going to be working on them to bring justice to families,” continued Gonzalez. He also voiced support for the use of the emerging science of familial DNA testing to solve murders, a matter being considered by state officials following the killing in August of Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano.

At the news conference, Brazell’s mother Desire Brazell spoke briefly, expressing relief and thanking the cold case detectives for standing by her family.

“I am grateful for that and I am ready,” she said, referring to any future trial.

Because Govan wouldn’t cooperate during the court proceedings, he was not officially arraigned Wednesday. But Gonzalez said they would be bringing him back to court as many times as necessary to complete the arraignment and secure his fingerprints.

After the courtroom outburst of Govan, defense lawyer Frederick Spiegel said he knew nothing about the case or the evidence and declined to comment on his client’s mental state.

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