Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Death Penalty Sought in Chapel Hill Case

NC prosecutors seek execution in NC student death

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (AP) — Eve Carson was, some might say, being responsible when she decided to stay home and study as her college roommates went out on a Tuesday night.

She was still working on her computer around 3:30 a.m. as a young man and teenager combed her Chapel Hill neighborhood looking for someone to rob and saw her alone through an open window, prosecutors allege.

Carson was found dead less than two hours later, shot five times — including once in the head with a 12-gauge shotgun — not far from her beloved University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus where she served as student body president.

Details emerged in the case Monday as Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall told a judge he would seek the execution of one suspect, Demario James Atwater, even though jurors in Orange County haven't returned a death sentence in nearly 40 years. It has been 60 years since someone convicted in Orange County was executed.

"This is the toughest decision any prosecutor has to make," Woodall said, adding that he consulted Carson's parents in the matter and felt they supported his decision.

Woodall said the crimes were especially heinous, and Superior Court Judge Thomas H. Lock agreed to hear the case as a capital murder.

Atwater, 22, and Laurence Alvin Lovette, 17, are charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, armed robbery and other charges in the death of Carson, 22, of Athens, Ga. Lovette cannot face the death penalty because of his age.

Atwater also faces charges of possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of a weapon of mass destruction, in this instance, a shotgun.

"He (Atwater) had been seen with that weapon prior to this crime," Woodall told the judge.

Woodall said prosecutors believe Atwater and Lovette kidnapped Carson from outside her home just before 4 a.m. Her computer showed an e-mail had been checked at 3:35 a.m., he said.

They stole her sport utility vehicle and took her to several ATMs, eventually withdrawing $1,400, he said.

Carson's body was found later that morning in the middle of a residential street near campus. Both suspects were arrested separately a week later after authorities released surveillance photos, including one that showed a man reaching toward an ATM from what appears to be Carson's Toyota Highlander.

Woodall said Carson was shot four times with a .25-caliber handgun, which police believe was used by Lovette, and once by Atwater's shotgun.

Authorities retrieved both weapons, which appeared damages as if someone tried to dismantle them, Woodall said. Ballistics experts were able to get enough evidence from the weapons to pin them on Atwater and Lovette, he said.

Lovette also is charged with first degree murder in the death of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato, who was found dead Jan. 18 in his apartment near the university's campus in Durham, about a 20-minute drive from Chapel Hill. Mahato had been shot once in the forehead.

Stephen Oates, 19, of Durham, also is charged with murder in Mahato's death. Lovette wasn't charged until after his arrest in Carson's death.

Lovette was scheduled to be in court Tuesday in Durham to face charges in Mahato's death.

No comments: