BUSHWICK — Friends and family of a teenager murdered in 2004 are planning a vigil for the girl near the place where her body was found after a man was charged with her death.
The balloon and candle ceremony will be held Nov. 25 at 130 Palmetto St. from 3 to 5 p.m. near the alleyway where 17-year-old Sharabia Thomas' naked body was found beaten and bruised with ligature marks on her wrists and ankles and stuffed inside two laundry bags, according to prosecutors.
The news that Kwauhuru Govan, 38, a Florida convict with a long rap sheet in New York and other states was indicted on kidnapping and second-degree murder charges for her death last week brought the painful emotions surrounding Sharabia's death back, a childhood friend of hers said.
"I was hysterical, I called my mom. I called my sister. I was just going crazy," said Jessica Calderon, 30, who'd known the victim since kindergarten.
Calderon heard about the arrest from a friend while driving and had to pull the car over because she was so shocked, she said.
Sharabia and Calderon had gone to elementary school together, then parted ways, but rekindled their friendship when they both attended EBC High School on Dekalb Avenue, she said.
Calderon remembered Sharabia as shy, but a jokester when with friends. She'd wanted to be a clothing designer and loved to dance, though she was too bashful to join the school's step team.
"She was such a sweetheart... Always with a big smile, always very giving... just a wonderful person," she said.
"You would never think anyone would do any harm to someone like her."
Her death devastated EBC's senior class just four months before graduation. Students were afraid to walk to school with the killer on the loose.
The pain of her funeral is still fresh,, Calderon said.
"Just to see her there, the way she was bruised up and everything. It was just terrible," she said. "She had gloves on with the dress because he had mistreated her arms and her hands.
"They rolled her by us and my reaction was I can't do this, I cannot do this. I got up and I walked out."
Calderon still thinks about Sharabia all the time. The woman would have turned 30 at the end of this year.
"What if she would have been alive, would she have had children already? Where would she be at right now? What would she be doing?" she said.
Govan's arrest brings some closure, but Calderon hopes a trial will bring out answers to the questions that have swirled around her mind for 12 years, like what happened to Sharabia's clothes and cell phone?
More importantly: why was she killed?
"We just want to know why? Why did you do that and how can you live with yourself?" Calderon said.
Govan was in prison in Florida for an armed robbery. His DNA was entered into the FBI's federal database in 2014 following that arrest.
This summer, cold case investigators tested Sharabia's fingernails for DNA for the first time and the tests showed that Govan was a match, prosecutors said.
Govan is being held at Rikers Island and is due back in court on Jan. 6.