- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A 19-year-old man convicted in the grisly killing of a teenage woman was at the time of the murder a ward of the District of Columbia, according to sources at the city’s youth rehabilitation agency.

Johnnie Sweet, of Southeast, was found guilty by a jury Tuesday of first-degree felony murder in the August 2010 kidnapping and death of 18-year-old Latisha Frazier, whose body, witnesses at trial said, was stuffed in a trash crate and thrown into a dumpster. Her body was never found.

U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. and Chief Cathy L. Lanier of the Metropolitan Police Department announced the verdict but under D.C. law are unable to confirm or identify youths committed to the custody of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services.

DYRS officials similarly are barred from confirming the identity of youths placed in their custody.

But sources at the agency have been able to confirm over the years that dozens of youths publicly identified in police and news reports as victims or suspects were at the time of the crimes committed to DYRS custody. To date, the agency has not disputed those reports.

In January 2012, an investigation by The Washington Times found that at least 53 DYRS wards over the previous five years were in the agency’s custody at the time they were either killed or found guilty of killing someone else. The majority of them had been categorized in advance as posing a “high,” “high-medium” or “medium” risk of re-offending.

This year alone, sources at DYRS have identified a number of wards involved in similar incidents, including one youth arrested in the March drive-by mass shooting on North Capitol Street and another named at the time as a “person of interest.”

No other arrests have been made in that case, which resulted in a dozen bystanders being seriously injured.

Also in March, Prince George’s County police arrested 19-year-old Demetrice Littles in connection with a carjacking and shooting involving a D.C. police officer’s 9-year-old daughter. Littles, who sources at DYRS say was a committed youth at the time, crashed the car and fled on foot after being shot by the officer, according to police reports.

And last month, a D.C. judge sentenced 23-year-old Raymond Roseboro to 40 years in prison for the 2010 murder of 16-year-old Prince Okorie. DYRS sources say Roseboro, who after the trial maintained his innocence, and Prince were agency wards at the time of the murder.

Prosecutors at the trial said they believed that Roseboro killed Prince to keep him from “snitching” on Eric Foreman — also a DYRS ward — who was sentenced in December to 42 years in prison for the 2010 shooting death of Catholic University graduate student Neil Godleski.

The Frazier murder, however, is perhaps the most shocking crime attributed to a youth entrusted to DYRS.

Evidence at trial showed that Sweet, who faces from 30 to 60 years in prison, led a group of six young men and women who were laying in wait for Frazier when she entered Sweet’s apartment in August 2010.

In January 2011, a witness told police that the group — ages 16 to 23 — suspected that Frazier had stolen $900 from Sweet, who recruited the others to exact revenge. After beating her, binding her in duct tape with a pillowcase over her head and shoving her into a closet, the group later found she had died, according to prosecutors.

Witnesses said that Sweet helped carry her to the bathtub and tried to dismember her, then later threw her body into a dumpster. Six of the seven co-defendants in the case have pleaded guilty to crimes ranging from murder and kidnapping to conspiracy to tamper with evidence.

A representative for DYRS Director Neil Stanley said “the District’s confidentiality statutes generally prohibit the release of youth information absent a court order.” Mayor Vincent C. Gray did not respond to requests for comment.

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