Police say DNA links convict to 1994 Pontiac killing

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — A 44-year-old man in prison for a 1995 murder and rape has now been charged in another cold case slaying that was unsolved for 22 years.

Brandon Kynard Gohagen

Brandon Kynard Gohagen, was arraigned last Friday for the Aug. 29, 1994, killing of Rosalia Brantley, 22, of Pontiac, whose body was found wrapped in a window curtain and dumped in the city’s Hawthorne Park.

The victim, found by a man looking for bottles, was reportedly last seen two days earlier at about 2 a.m., according to investigators with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit.

Investigators determined there was DNA evidence matching Gohagen to the crime. He is serving time for second-degree murder and first-degree criminal sexual conduct in the July 1995 death of Margaret Midkiff, also in Pontiac. Midkiff, 43, was found in the basement of her home, a pillow case over her head. An autopsy showed she had been kicked to death.

“Gohagen was apparently not a suspect in Brantley’s death and wasn’t even in a DNA database until after his later conviction in Midkiff’s death,” said Sgt. Sam Marzban of the cold case unit.

Marzdan said there didn’t appear to be any relationship between the victims or Gohagen.

Gohagen, who fled the state during the investigation of Midkiff’s death, admitted he raped Midkiff on orders of George and Melvin Dejesus, her longtime neighbors.

Under a sentencing agreement Gohagen pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and criminal sexual conduct in the case and agreed to testify during the 1997 trial that the Dejesus brothers killed Midkiff, their childhood friend and former babysitter. The brothers, who have repeatedly denied any involvement in her death, are serving life prison sentences. Their DNA was never found on Midkiff.

Sheriff Michael Bouchard said an open homicide case is never closed.

“This case is further proof that we keep looking, keep digging and follow up when new witnesses come forward,” he said.

Gohagen, who is being held without bond for felony murder and criminal sexual conduct in the Brantley case, had a possible release date of September 2031 in the Midkiff conviction according to state records.

If convicted of the new charges he could be sentenced to life in prison.

He is scheduled for an Oct. 25 pre-exam conference and a Nov. 7 exam in Pontiac 50th District Court.


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