Man convicted in 2004 Brooklyn cold case murder gets 25 years to life in prison

BUSHWICK, Brooklyn (WABC) -- A 40-year-old man convicted in the 2004 murder of a Brooklyn teenager after a 2016 DNA analysis of the victim's fingernails linked him to the cold case was sentenced to the maximum of 25 years to life in prison Friday.

The naked body of 17-year-old Sharabia Thomas 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. There was no evidence of a sexual assault.

Kwauhuru Govan, formerly of Gates Avenue in Bushwick, was convicted of second-degree murder. He learned his fate after the judge heard victim impact statements from Thomas' sisters.

Govan pleaded with the judge for leniency, insisting that he is "an innocent man" who was framed.

There were no outbursts in court. Afterward, the victim's sisters told reporters, "Justice is done. We are satisfied with the sentence."

The investigation determined that Thomas 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 Brooklyn District Attorney's Forensic Science Unit requested that fingernail clippings taken from the victim at the time of the autopsy be located and tested for DNA.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said the DNA was a match for Govan, who was living in Florida and had been in jail for an armed robbery conviction two years prior. 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 retrains in the design.

"Sharabia's bravery when she fought for her life helped bring her killer to justice and he has now been held responsible for this brutal years-old murder," Gonzalez said following the conviction. "Today's verdict is a testament to the importance of my Cold Case Unit that's working tirelessly with the NYPD to solve old crimes using the latest technology."

The DA's office says the suspect denied knowing the teenage girl, but they lived just two blocks apart at the time of her death. His defense attorney downplayed the DNA evidence, and Govan himself said he had been framed.

Govan is awaiting trial in the similar 2005 killing of 19-year-old Rashawn Brazell, and he remains a suspect in two other unsolved murders.

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