BROOKLYN — PIX11 News received the Facebook tip in early May 2016, after we traveled to the Caribbean island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
A woman in Brooklyn wrote the Mary Murphy Mystery Facebook page and asked me to check out the earlier, unsolved strangulation of 17-year-old Sharabia Thomas in 2004.
Like Chanel, Sharabia was a beautiful young woman. Like Chanel, Sharabia’s body was found in a bag. Both girls lived in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.
Sharabia Thomas had vanished on the way to high school; Chanel Petro Nixon never came home after leaving her family’s apartment to file a job application at Applebee’s.
Sharabia Thomas’ body was found in laundry bags in an alley. Chanel’s body was discovered folded over in a trash bag on the sidewalk.
After PIX11 visited Palmetto Street in Brooklyn, where Sharabia Thomas’ body was found in 2004, we contacted the NYPD’s Cold Case Squad — thinking her case could be connected to Chanel’s 2006 murder.
The NYPD reviewed Sharabia’s file with new resolve and discovered DNA evidence had been preserved from under Sharabia’s fingernails.
The DNA profile was put into a national database and there was a match in Florida, where 38-year-old Kwauhuru Govan was about to be released from prison, after serving time for robbery.
Govan was stopped at the door of Northwest Florida Reception Center in Chipley and hit with an NYPD warrant for his arrest.
NYPD Cold Case Detectives, Evelin Gutierrez and Jason Palamara, flew to Florida to bring Govan back to New York.
When he was charged with murder in Brooklyn Supreme Court this past November, Sharabia Thomas’ family screamed at him from the spectators’ section in the courtroom, and Govan yelled back that he was “not guilty.”
Three months later, Detectives Gutierrez and Palamara had to literally drag Kwauhuru Govan back into court Wednesday — to face murder charges in the beheading and dismemberment of another Brooklyn teen, 19-year-old Rashawn Brazell.
Brazell’s body parts were discovered in trash bags in a subway tunnel on the “A” line on February 17, 2005. He was last seen walking to the Gates Avenue “elevated” train station on February 14, 2005. He was supposed to meet his mother, Desire, for a Valentine’s Day lunch.
His unsolved case was featured three times on the nationally-syndicated crime show, “America’s Most Wanted.”
Govan, now 38 years old, was kicking and screaming as he was pulled into the Brooklyn courtroom by the detectives and court officers. He had refused to have his fingerprints taken at the 84th Precinct in Brooklyn.
“I didn’t do anything, Judge,” he yelled, as he was forced to sit down in a chair. Govan claimed he had been bruised on his right cheek and was assaulted, but there were no visible signs of any injuries.
When Govan tried to stand up, court officers forced him to sit down again and Govan started screaming, “Get off me, Get off me!”
He later yelled, “I can’t breathe! Look! I can’t breathe!”
The judge had to suspend reading of a sealed indictment in the Brazell case and told Govan to go back to Rikers Island. The suspect was expected back in court later this week.
Shortly afterwards, Kings County District Attorney, Eric Gonzalez, appeared at a press conference with Rashawn Brazell’s mother, Desire, and the NYPD Chief of Detectives, Robert Boyce.
Gonzalez pointed out this was the third, “Cold Case” homicide solved by his office in roughly a six month period.
“We’re going to expand our Forensic Science unit,” Gonzalez told reporters.
Chief of Detectives, Robert Boyce, acknowledged that information developed after the Chanel Petro Nixon case caused them to take another look at the lesser-known Sharabia Thomas case.
The DNA from Sharabia Thomas’ case led them to Kwauhuru Govan. Cops aren’t saying anything publicly about DNA in the Brazell case.
The NYPD Chief of Detectives, Robert Boyce, acknowledged the Chanel Petro Nixon case spurred his Cold Case detectives to review all unsolved homicides in Brooklyn South.
When I asked Chief Boyce if he thought Govan might be a serial killer, since he’s lived in many parts of the country, the Chief answered, “We’re charging him with two murders, Mary. There’s a great possibility that might be the case.”