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Suspect arraigned in slaying of District woman

By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 24, 2011; 9:39 PM

A District man allegedly told homicide detectives that he choked a woman and threw her body into a dumpster behind a Southeast Washington apartment building last summer, according to documents filed in D.C. Superior Court.

It was the first time family members of Latisha Frazier, 19, heard details of what happened to the young mother, whose body has not been found. Family members reported Frazier missing Aug. 4 and have been posting fliers around the city with her picture in hopes of finding out what happened to her.

On Monday, Brian A. Gaither, 23, stood before a magistrate judge on charges of second-degree murder in connection with Frazier's slaying. According to the charging documents, Gaither told detectives that on Aug. 2, inside an apartment building in the 1700 block of Trenton Place SE, he hit Frazier twice and then put her in a chokehold to "put her to sleep." But Frazier, Gaither said, was still alive when he released his arm from around her neck because she was choking.

A witness who contacted police before Gaither was arrested Saturday told authorities that four other people were in the apartment at the time Gaither choked Frazier and that Gaither was angry because Frazier had allegedly stolen some money from one of his friends.

The witness, who was not identified, also told authorities that before Gaither placed Frazier in a chokehold, three women jumped and beat Frazier inside the two-bedroom apartment, and that Gaither then "finished her off."

Gaither was arrested Saturday for failing to show up in court for an outstanding warrant on a June arrest for receiving stolen property. The witness contacted police after seeing a TV news report about Frazier's case just two days earlier, and Gaither was questioned about Frazier's slaying.

According to the documents, Gaither said that although he put Frazier in a chokehold, he did not kill her. Gaither told detectives that two days after choking Frazier, he and another individual placed Frazier's body in a green plastic bin and dragged it to a dumpster behind the building. Gaither said he returned to the dumpster a day later to check on Frazier's body and it was gone.

At the hearing Monday, Gaither's attorney, Eugene Ohm of the District's Public Defender Service, tried to persuade Magistrate Judge Frederick Sullivan to release his client, saying there was no evidence that the chokehold led to Frazier's death.

"There is no body," Ohm said. "And there is no proof that her injuries caused her death. We don't know what happened."

Sullivan rejected Ohm's argument and ordered Gaither held for trial, setting a preliminary hearing on Feb. 11.

Authorities have said that additional arrests may be forthcoming.

With Frazier's body missing, it will be challenging for prosecutors to prove that Frazier was murdered.

"No body" murder cases are among the most difficult for prosecutors. Since 1980, there have only been four such cases, according to the District's U.S. attorney's office.

Dozens of Frazier's relatives who crowded into the courtroom were shocked to see Gaither's face. It was not the first time they had seen him, they said.

During a recent vigil for Frazier, it was Gaither who approached Frazier's mother, Caroline Frazier, and hugged her and offered words of encouragement. Seeing Gaither in the courtroom upset family members.

"I just can't believe it," Caroline Frazier said after the hearing. "It hurt me to my heart that they choked my baby like that."

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