“He has served periods of incarceration before,” said Leila Rosini, the senior assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case with Danielle Reddan, an assistant district attorney, in Brooklyn Supreme Court on September 7. “Incarceration did not change his life… This case absolutely demonstrates that society needs to be protected from this man.”
After four of Thomas’ relatives spoke, including her two sisters, Rosini referred to the “tortuous and depraved manner in which Sharabia Thomas was killed” and asked for and received the maximum sentence for Kwauhuru Govan, 40, who lived in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood.
Thomas apparently fought with Govan before he strangled and beat her to death. His DNA was in cells that were found under Thomas’ fingernails. Her dismembered body was discovered in two laundry bags in an alley in Bushwick.
Both cases went unsolved for years, but in June 2016, the NYPD’s Cold Case Squad and the Brooklyn district attorney’s Cold Case Unit matched that DNA to a sample of Govan’s DNA that was uploaded to a national database following his 2014 arrest for armed robbery in Florida. He was arrested in Florida after his release from prison and extradited to New York.
“You almost got away with it, but DNA doesn’t lie,” said Shaniya Thomas, Sharabia’s older sister, during the sentencing. Shaniya called Govan “a monster.”
After linking Govan to Thomas, police realized that Govan lived across the street from Brazell. Police found that a bag that belonged to Govan and that had Brazell’s blood on it was recovered in the subway station where parts of Brazell’s body were discovered in 2005. Brazell, who was 19 at his death, was gay.
Govan’s attorneys, Joshua Horowitz and Jonathan Strauss, asked for the minimum term of 15-to-life. As he has done since the start of both cases, Govan insisted that he is an innocent man during the sentencing proceeding.
“I am sorry for the family’s loss, but I am not the culprit,” Govan told Judge Joanne Quinones, who presided over the trial. “I just ask you to look over the evidence before you make a decision and send me away for life for something I did not do.”
Desire Brazell, Rashawn’s mother, attended the sentencing with roughly two dozen of Thomas’ friends and relatives. She briefly commented after the proceeding.
“The only thing I’m going to say is this is Sharabia’s family’s day and I’m glad they got what they deserved,” she told Gay City News.
A hearing in the Brazell case before Quinones is scheduled for October 31.