By all accounts, Rashawn Brazell was an intelligent, charismatic, and caring young man with a very bright future. But on February 14, 2005, his life was brutally cut short in what the media have referred to as “the most horrific murder since Jack the Ripper.” This Rashawn Brazell wiki examines his life, death, and the years-long investigation into his slaying.
For 12 long and agonizing years, the perpetrator of this heinous murder was unknown and the case went cold despite the best efforts of investigators. In 2017, some answers were finally delivered to Brazell’s loved ones when Kwauhuru Govan was arrested and charged with the murder.
Who Was Rashawn Brazell?
Rashawn Brazell was born on April 15, 1985 in New York City, New York. He was the youngest son of Desire Brazell.
He was an aspiring web developer and looking for a job at the time of his death at age 19.
According to Desire, Rashawn was one of the most loving and charitable teenagers she’d ever known. He enjoyed helping other people, whether it was giving to the needy or helping fashion hopefuls gain the confidence they needed to achieve their dreams.
Desire said: “He was a very giving person. People don’t know that he used to take food out of my refrigerator and give it to the family across the street.”
Rashawn was known for his excellent fashion sense and he once modeled at a Tower Records celebrity event. He even consulted with aspiring models and designers over the phone and in person. Many of his peers who wanted to break into the fashion industry were openly gay and looked up to Rashawn, who was gay himself.
Brazell’s friends and loved ones all describe him as a fun-loving personality who genuinely cared about other people.
Rashawn Brazell’s horrific and untimely death has become something of a cautionary tale for young African-American members of the LGBTQ+ community.
In their quest to understand the motives behind this horrific crime, some people have speculated that it might have been prompted by rampant homophobia. Kwauhuru Govan, the man accused of killing Brazell, has claimed to be a devout Jehovah’s Witness.
During an interview with Detective Jason Palamara of the NYPD Cold Case Homicide Squad, Govan stated that he didn’t associate with Rashawn because “[Brazell] was an abomination, according to the Bible.”
Earlier conspiracy theories (before Govan was arrested) speculated that perhaps the murder was motivated by racism. However, since both suspect and victim are black, that theory has now been thrown out the window.
The reality is there’s no satisfactory answer as to why Govan might have committed this crime because all of his answers to police questions have been purposely vague and evasive.
What Happened to Rashawn Brazell?
February 14, 2005 started off like any other day for the young and energetic teenager. That morning, just before 7:30 a.m., Brazell had a brief phone conversation with his mother before heading out of the house for the day.
His plan was to meet with an accountant to discuss his financial future, search for a full-time job, and meet his mother for a special Valentine’s Day lunch—albeit not necessarily in that order.
Brazell never met up with his mother. In fact, that morning was the last time she ever spoke to him.
Just three days later on February 17, New York City transit workers made a gruesome discovery.
Garbage bags full of human remains—body parts including legs, an arm, and a portion of a torso—were discovered inside a tunnel on the A line at 3:00 a.m.
A few days later, another arm and hand were found in a tool bag at a recycling plant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The only part of Rashawn Brazell’s body that was never retrieved was his head.
Important Witness Accounts
According to witnesses, an unidentified man was seen ringing the doorbell of Brazell’s apartment complex in Bushwick, Brooklyn on February 14, 2005. They said Brazell answered the door and was seen walking with the man to the nearest subway station, which is located at the intersection of Gates Avenue and Broadway.
Some witnesses claimed that they saw the two men exiting the subway at the Nostrand Avenue station a little while later, but Brazell was never seen or heard from after that.
It was through DNA testing that investigators were able to swiftly link Brazell to the body parts.
Anyone living in the area was likely familiar with Rashawn Brazell’s face, as posters offering various rewards to people with information about the case circulated in Brooklyn for more than a decade.
Justice for Rashawn Brazell?
On the day of her son’s disappearance, Desire Brazell, who was a social service worker for many years, knew something was wrong when he didn’t show up for their lunch.
She tried calling him several times, but his cell phone just kept going to voicemail. That’s when she really started to worry, because she knew it was out of character for her son not to answer the phone.
When Rashawn didn’t come home that night, Desire contacted New York City police to file a missing persons case, but the police initially dismissed her fears and told her that Rashawn had probably misplaced his phone.
Days later, Desire’s worst fears were confirmed when her son’s dismembered body parts started showing up in various parts of the city.
After that, Desire never stopped searching for her son’s killer. More than a decade after her son’s gruesome murder, Desire finally learned the name of his suspected murderer.
Much to her surprise, the alleged perpetrator was a neighbor she knew who’d lived across the street from her apartment. Rashawn had even visited Kwauhuru Govan’s home with friends, according to an anonymous source. Other sources claimed Rashawn and Govan had grown up together.
Govan, 40, who was serving time in prison for an armed robbery conviction in Florida and was on the cusp of being released, was apprehended by police and extradited to New York in 2016 for a different slaying.
He was charged with the 2004 murder of another teenager named Sharabia Thomas. She lived only a few blocks from Rashawn Brazell’s residence.
DNA retesting done many years after Thomas’ death resulted in a match with Govan’s DNA profile, which had been uploaded to a national database.
On September 7, 2018, Govan was given the maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison for kidnapping and murdering 17-year-old Thomas. Her naked body was found dumped in an alleyway near her home, but there were no signs of sexual assault.
She had left her house to go to school when she was abducted. Thomas’ fingernail clippings contained the key DNA evidence that pointed to Govan.
Before this conviction, police had tied Govan to the murder of Rashawn Brazell. When they interviewed Govan, he lied and said he was out of the state when Brazell was killed.
Further investigation turned up witness accounts pointing to Govan and physical evidence that implicates the suspect, sources said. A bloody bag found in a subway tunnel, along with Brazell’s remains, was linked to Govan.
“It’s a circumstantial case,” one of the sources said.
Govan is charged with second-degree murder. He continues to vehemently deny that he’s Brazell’s killer.
Rashawn Brazell’s Suspected Murderer Was at His Funeral
Court papers revealed that not only did Govan attend Brazell’s funeral, but he also signed the attendee register.
He initially “denied that it was his handwriting, and then stated that it kind of looked like his handwriting,” court papers say. “The defendant then stated that his dates are a little scrambled and that he did in fact attend Rashawn’s funeral.”
Rashawn Brazell was cremated and the ashes were given to his mother.
Kwauhuru Govan Said “I Love You” to Desire Brazell in Court
In a strange twist of events, Govan mouthed the words “You know I love you” to Desire Brazell during an arraignment hearing in March 2017. Desire refused to comment after the incident.
During a court appearance a week earlier, he got into a physical altercation with numerous police personnel when they tried to obtain his fingerprints. Govan claimed he was being framed for the murder.
Fed up with his antics, the judge ordered police to escort Govan out of the courtroom. The judge informed him that they’d keep bringing him in every single day until he cooperated.
Govan was removed from the courtroom, but not before yelling, “I didn’t do anything, judge. I can’t dissect a frog.”
Govan is currently awaiting trial for the murder of Rashawn Brazell. He’s also being looked at in connection with two other unsolved murders.
Rashawn’s Desire: The Untold Story of Rashawn Brazell
In 2011, filmmaker Terik King teamed up with Desire Brazell to bring Rashawn’s story to the big screen in the form of a documentary about his life and the murder case.
Production for the film is currently on hold as the trial is pending, but a trailer has been released featuring interviews with Rashawn Brazell’s friends and family. King and Desire even set up an Indiegogo account to raise funds for the film, but it has since been closed as they await the results of the upcoming trial.
Desire has also started the Rashawn Brazell Memorial Fund in honor of her son to help college-bound students obtain scholarships.