Eugene Ohm, representing Gaither at a felony status conference Friday morning, said physical evidence contained on Frazier’s remains could determine whether his client be charged with first degree murder or manslaughter.
Gaither is one of six people accused in the brutal and deadly assault of 18-year-old Latisha Frazier in August 2010. Frazier, a young mother, was reported missing and she has not been found. Five of the six defendants have admitted to police that they participated in the attack on Frazier.
Prosecutors allege that Frazier was at defendant Johnnie Sweets’ apartment in Southeast D.C. on Aug. 1, 2010 when she was last seen alive. After being invited into a back bedroom in the apartment, Frazier was beaten, stomped on and choked, bound by her legs, her mouth taped shut, and her head covered before she was eventually “thrown” into a closet, prosecutors allege.
At issue specifically is the type of hold allegedly used to restrain Frazier, according to the defendant’s accounts to police, Ohm said. If the hold is determined to be a “sleeper hold,” also called a “blood choke,” that would be grounds for a manslaughter charge; if it is a “choke hold,” also called an “air choke,” that could be a first degree murder charge, Ohm said.
“The best piece of evidence to determine that is the decedent’s body,” Ohm told Judge William Jackson. He urged the court to move quickly to secure Frazier’s remains, citing the warming weather’s quickening effects on decomposition.
“Timing is of the essence here,” Ohm said.
In a Washington Post article today, MPD Police Chief Cathy Lanier said that Frazier’s remains were likely buried “at a minimum of 70 feet” deep in the landfill. The search would take at least six months and cost more than $1 million, according to Lanier and the report.
Government prosecutors asked Ohm to put his request in writing, but attorney Chris Kavanaugh, on behalf of the government, said he wasn’t sure what the government’s “legal obligation” to a search is.
Defendants Johnnie Sweets, 17; Cinthya Proctor, 18; Anneka Nelson, 16; Laurence Hassan, 23; and Brian Gaither, 23 have all waived their rights to a preliminary hearing. A sixth defendant, Lanee Bell, 17, has been arrested on suspicion of Felony Murder (Kidnapping) in the case.
Kavanaugh said the U.S. Attorney’s Office anticipates entering plea discussions with the defendant’s “shortly.”