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Crime Scene
Posted at 02:01 PM ET, 04/27/2011

D.C. judge denies request to force search missing woman’s remains

The judge overseeing the trial in the murder of Latisha M. Frazier, the Southeast District teenager who disappeared in August, denied an attorney’s request to force authorities to search a Virginia landfill for her remains.

Judge William Jackson sided with prosecutors and D.C. police in issuing his ruling, saying there was insufficient information that Frazier’s body was in a landfill to justify the multi-million dollar cost of the search and the risk to searchers.

Defense attorney Eugene Ohm of the District’s Public Defender Service argued that his client, Brian Gaither, 23 — one of the six people charged in Frazier’s death — could not obtain a fair trial if there was no proof of how Frazier was killed.

Five other defendants — two males and three females ranging in age from 16 to 23 — were also charged, the juveniles as adults, with various counts in connection with Frazier’s death, including first- and second-degree murder and kidnapping.

Prosecutors have based their case primarily on the accounts that the six have given detectives. They said they invited Frazier, 18, to a Southeast Washington apartment Aug. 2 and beat her, placed her in a closet and covered her with a sheet.

After Frazier died, according to authorities, several of the defendants tried to dismember her, then dumped her body in a trash bin behind the apartment building in the 1700 block of Trenton Place SE.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier had recently told Frazier’s family that the teenager was probably buried under tons of trash and dirt in a landfill near Richmond. Authorities did not authorize a search because it would cost more than $1 million and could jeopardize the safety of the recovery officers.

Lanier said that such a search could take six months and that there was no guarantee that Frazier’s remains would be found. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Kavanaugh sided with police and argued against the search.

At the hearing, Jackson agreed with authorities saying although Gaither told authorities Frazier’s body was dumped in a trash bin, there was no guarantee Gaither was telling the truth or remembered when Frazier’s body was dumped or in which trashbin; all of those factors could impact whether Frazier’s body was actually in the Richmond landfill.

“There is no certainty where the body is located,” Jackson said. The judge said searching through a landfill was not a “walk in the woods situation” where searchers could walk around and look for clues.

Based on interviews with the defendants, prosecutors say Gaither put Frazier in a choke hold before placing her in the closet. Gaither told police Frazier was still alive when she was put in the closet.

By  |  02:01 PM ET, 04/27/2011

Categories:  From the Courthouse, Keith L. Alexander

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