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DNA questions send killer's case to NC Supreme Court

Posted June 6, 2012

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— The state Court of Appeals voted 2-1 this week to uphold the murder conviction of a Gaston County man in the 2008 death of a University of North Carolina-Charlotte student, but the split decision means the North Carolina Supreme Court must decide the issue.

Mark Carver, 43, is serving a life sentence for the May 2008 death of Irina Yarmolenko.

The 20-year-old Chapel Hill High School graduate was found strangled on the banks of the Catawba River.

Carver has maintained his innocence, but forensic experts testified that his DNA was found on Yarmolenko's car. No DNA was found on the drawstring, bag handle and bungee cord used to strangle her.

Appeals court Judge Robert Hunter questioned the reliability of the skin cells, or "touch DNA," that linked Carver to the crime. Hunter noted that testing for DNA from skin cells isn't as accurate as the tests used for fluids like blood, saliva or semen and that no DNA was found outside of the car.

Judges Linda Stephens and Linda McGee ruled there were no errors in Carver's conviction.

Carver's cousin, Neal Cassada, also was charged in Yarmolenko's death, but he died from a heart attack in 2010 the day before his trial was set to begin.


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  • jackcdneh1017 Jun 6, 2012

    Always a good idea to put someone to death before their innocence is proven. Don't want them to wriggle out of a conviction on a technicality...Yes this is sarcasm. In actual fact, many more innocents have gone to prison for long sentences and even a few put to death as shown by DNA exonerations that guilty men have gone free.

  • lynne0312 Jun 6, 2012

    It sounds like many errors are possible with "touch" DNA. Additionally, foreign DNA was found on the murder weapon, the rope used to strange this woman. They never identified it.

  • jackcdneh1017 Jun 6, 2012

    I don't know much of the evidence in this case but IT IS NOT just a technicality when someone is convicted on DNA evidence that is "not reliable". DNA in a crime scene is a true "smoking gun" and is usually described as reliable way beyond any reasonable chance that it could be someone else's (in the figures like "a trillion to one"). Therefore juries are correct to convict on this type of sure fire evidence. However, when it is flawed it can be completely worthless and in fact DNA leads to many exonerations of the wrongfully convicted. My point is this may have been the ONLY evidence that connected this guy to the crime. Not saying he is innocent (I don't know the facts) but I am saying that if it could be someone else's DNA to a reasonable certainty, then this conviction could be completely erroneous. Very sad for this victim and her family if this DNA belongs to another killer who remains free.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Jun 6, 2012

    How many guilty men have had their sentences overturned due to a technicality? Should put them to death so they can't get out and murder again.