May 11, 2011

WASHINGTON — Caroline Frazier has spent months dreading that her 18-year-old daughter may be buried 70 feet deep in a mammoth landfill. Making matters worse, she says, is that no one is searching for her there.

One of the five people charged with murder in Latisha Frazier’s presumed death told investigators the teen’s body was left in a Washington garbage bin that gets emptied into a landfill outside Richmond, Va.

Yet District of Columbia police and prosecutors who have spent months on the case have opted against a search, saying excavating the landfill would be dangerous, expensive and have minimal chance of success — especially since authorities aren’t even positive her body is there. A judge agreed last month, denying a public defender’s request to order the search.

The decision left an unsettling conclusion for Frazier’s mother, who’s been unable to bury her daughter.

“We can’t do no closure right now,” Caroline Frazier said at the girl’s father’s home in Laurel, Md., wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with bittersweet images — one of her daughter as a young girl, beaming radiantly while perched on her father’s lap; another of her as an adolescent, posing confidently with hands on hips.

“It means a lot to have my baby,” she said.

Though Washington police reject the comparisons, the public defender, Eugene Ohm, has drawn stinging contrasts between the department’s handling of the Frazier investigation and the case of Chandra Levy, the D.C. intern whose 2001 disappearance attracted worldwide attention and a search that spanned more than a year.

Police say there are numerous critical differences in the cases, not least the locations of the women’s bodies — Levy’s was eventually discovered by a passerby walking his dog in a wooded park in the heart of Washington.

“There was never any landfill associated with that case in any way, shape or form,” said Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham. “You don’t have a fair comparison.”

Experts say the decision not to excavate is unusual in a profession conditioned to do all it can to recover victims’ bodies, but they also said it reflects the long odds of success the police felt they faced and the tricky calculus involved in any missing person case.

Frazier’s father, Barry Campbell, says he’s accepted that there won’t be a search but has nagging thoughts that the case might have been treated with more urgency if his daughter were in the “big world.” Police say that’s completely false.

“Then you have the Latisha Fraziers, that’s the small world — helping people at McDonald’s or working the Metro. The blue-collar workers, the blue-collar people,” Campbell said.

Frazier’s parents recall her as a tomboyish young girl who schooled her dad on the computer, joined neighborhood boys in sports games and who, as she grew older, shed her childhood nickname of “Pooh” in favor of the more mature “Tish.”

She moved out of her mother’s home when she turned 18 and was working at McDonald’s, raising her daughter, Diamond, and planning a cooking career. She valued family, spending the day before her disappearance with relatives at Chuck E. Cheese’s and often riding along in her father’s ice cream truck.

Source - Washington Post

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