I just apologize,” Brian Gaither Says at Sentencing in Murder of Latisha Frazier

Judge William Jackson sentenced Brian Gaither to 32 years in prison Tuesday for his role in the brutal 2011 murder of 18-year-old Latisha Frazier.

Gaither pleaded guilty last year, but later tried to withdraw the guilty plea. Jackson rejected that motion March 22.

Gaither and five others were suspected of beating Frazier to death in Aug. 2010. All except one, Johnnie Sweets, have pleaded guilty in connection with the case. One suspect told police they thought Frazier had stolen money from Sweet.

Police say the young people beat Frazier, taped and gagged her and left her in a closet. They then put Frazier’s body in a dumpster, police say, where investigators think it was taken to a Virginia landfill. Police haven’t been able to locate Frazier’s body.

Frazier’s father, Barry Campbell, told the court Frazier’s death has been difficult for his family and for Frazier’s young daughter.

“To lose a child, there’s nothing like it,” Campbell said.

Gaither, who hobbled into the courtroom on crutches after recently having knee surgery, spoke three words.

“I just apologize,” Gaither said.

Gaither’s defense attorney, Archie Nichols, said Gaither now regretted trying to withdraw the guilty plea. The sentence agreed upon was “probably equal to what he would have gotten if he had gone to trial and lost,” Nichols said.

Jackson disagreed. He said there was such “unspeakable cruelty” in what happened he might have sentenced Gaither to life in prison without the possibility of release, if prosecutors had asked for the sentence. Gaither at one point told investigators he had seen Frazier recently in the neighborhood when he knew he had killed her, Jackson said – giving her family false hope.

Nichols said the murder was the culmination of a lifetime of Gaither trying to make it but failing. Both of Gaither’s parents died when he was very young, and he grew up in the foster care system, where he was constantly around people who used illegal drugs, Nichols said.

“He’ll be punished for 32 years in a maximum security prison for this,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Kavanaugh said, “but he’ll also have to think about what he did for the rest of his life.”

A press release from the US Attorney’s Office is below.

District Man Sentenced to 32-Year Prison Term
In Kidnapping and Killing of 18-Year-Old Latisha Frazier
- After Murder, Defendant Disposed of the Victim’s Body in Dumpster-

WASHINGTON - Brian Gaither, 25, of Washington, D.C., was sentenced today to a 32-year prison term on a charge of first-degree murder in the kidnapping and murder of 18-year-old Latisha Frazier, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced.

Gaither pled guilty in November 2012 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to the charge of first-degree murder, days before he was to go on trial. He was sentenced by the Honorable William M. Jackson. Upon completion of his prison term, Gaither will be placed on five years of supervised release.

According to a statement of facts signed by the defendant and submitted to the Court, Gaither was one of the leaders of a group of six young men and women who took part in the murder of Ms. Frazier.

On Aug. 1, 2010, Gaither and others decided that they would invite Ms. Frazier to an apartment in the 1700 block of Trenton Place SE to “teach her a lesson” because they suspected – with little evidence – that she had stolen $900 from one of them. During a discussion, they developed a plan to lure Ms. Frazier to a small bedroom, where they would beat her.

The next day, the group gathered at the residence to carry out the plan. Ms. Frazier, as planned, was invited to the residence and, upon her arrival, she was led to the bedroom. The group proceeded to strike Ms. Frazier. The females started to beat Ms. Frazier and she cried for them to stop. Gaither then joined in the attack, punching, kicking, and stomping on Ms. Frazier, and beating her until she was unconscious. The group decided to bind Ms. Frazier with tape around her wrists and ankles and then put her in a closet. At that time, Ms. Frazier was still alive. As she began to moan from the closet, Gaither returned to the bedroom and choked her.
Later that day, someone checked on Ms. Frazier and reported to the group that the victim was dead.

Upon learning that Ms. Frazier had died, Gaither took part in a discussion about what to do with her body. The next day, he and others carried the body to a bathtub, where he and others attempted to dismember it. The defendant then placed Ms. Frazier’s body into a large plastic crate, which he threw into a dumpster in the 1700 block of Trenton Place SE.

Ms. Frazier’s body was never recovered and is believed to be in one of two landfills in rural Virginia.

Gaither is among a number of people arrested in this case and has been in custody since January 2011. A co-defendant, Johnnie Sweet, 19, is scheduled to stand trial on April 22, 2013.

In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen praised the work of those who investigated the case for the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), including detectives from the Major Case/Cold Case Squad and the Seventh District. He also expressed appreciation for the efforts of those who handled the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Larry Grasso of the Criminal Intelligence Unit, Victim/Witness Advocate Marcia Rinker, and Paralegal Specialists Kwasi Fields, Phaylyn Hunt, and Angela Lawrence. Finally, he thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher R. Kavanaugh and Melinda Williams, who prosecuted the case.

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