A D.C. Superior Court jury Tuesday found a District man guilty of first-degree murder and other charges in the brutal 2010 beating death of an 18-year-old woman.
After a day of deliberations, the jury found Johnnie Sweet, 19, guilty of orchestrating the murder of Latisha Frazier, 18, who Sweet said had stolen $900 from him. Prosecutors said Sweet, then 16, persuaded six of his friends to beat and stomp Frazier while one of the friends choked her in Sweet’s Southeast Washington apartment.
Six of Sweet’s friends and neighbors have pleaded guilty to charges associated with Frazier’s death, with only Sweet having maintained his innocence.
Sweet faces 30 to 60 years in prison when he is sentenced by Judge Russell F. Canan in July.
Prosecutors Chris Kavanaugh and Melinda Williams argued that Sweet persuaded all six friends, three teenage girls and three men, to beat Frazier after he lured her to his apartment in the 1700 block of Trenton Place SE following her shift at a Temple Hills McDonald’s.
Prosecutors say there was no evidence that Frazier stole the money or even knew about the money.
Sweet’s friends were waiting in a bedroom and surprised Frazier, who was still wearing her McDonald’s uniform. Joined by Sweet, they kicked, punched and stomped Frazier, bound her wrists and ankles, covered her face with a sheet and forced her into a closet, where she eventually died. Kavanaugh said Sweet then tried to dismember Frazier’s body in a bathtub. Eventually, one of his friends put her body in a trash crate and threw it in a dumpster behind the apartment building. Her body was never recovered; according to trial testimony, it probably wound up in a Virginia landfill.
Murder cases without bodies are rare — and often challenging for prosecutors.
Prosecutors had offered two plea deals to Sweet, in which they agreed to request a sentence of no less than 30 years and no more than 40. Sweet rejected the offers.
Members of Frazier’s family silently wiped away tears as the four guilty verdicts of kidnapping and felony murder were read. Sweet sat emotionless next to his court-appointed attorney.
Outside the courtroom, Frazier’s family celebrated by hugging the prosecutors and detectives in the case. “God is good, and he did not get a plea. Justice has been served,” said Frazier’s father, Barry Campbell.
In April, Sweet’s best friend, Brian Gaither, 25, was sentenced to 32 years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree murder. Cinthya Proctor, 21, and Laurence Kamal Hassan, 24, pleaded guilty to various charges, including second-degree murder and kidnapping. Both are awaiting sentencing. Aneka Nelson, 18, has also pleaded guilty to charges related to the case. Lanee Bell, 19, who testified against Sweet during the trial, also pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Antoine McCullough, 27, of the District pleaded guilty to conspiracy to tamper with evidence.