Durham, N.C. — The defense attorney for Laurence Lovette says her client intends to go to trial in the shooting death of a Duke University graduate student who was killed two months before Lovette was arrested for killing the student body president at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Karen Bethea-Shields said Thursday that they had discussed a plea concerning Abhijit Mahato's death but that Lovette, facing a first-degree murder charge in the case, is adamant about going to trial.
There was no formal offer of a plea deal, however. The case is set to be back in court in July, but a trial date has not been set.
Mahato, 29, of Tatangar, India, was a second-year graduate student at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering, where he was studying computational mechanics. He had hopes of returning to India to teach at the university level.
Friends found him dead inside his off-campus apartment on Jan. 18, 2008. According to an autopsy report, he died from a single gunshot wound that was fired at point-blank range to his forehead as a pillow was held tightly to his face.
According to court documents, his wallet and cellphone were stolen, as well as an iPod that was found on Lovette when he was arrested after the March 5, 2008, shooting death of Eve Carson at UNC.
Friends said bank statements showed two withdrawals from Mahato's savings account on the day they found his body. In Carson's case, Lovette and another man kidnapped her and drove her to several ATMs to withdraw money before fatally shooting her in a Chapel Hill street.
In February, prosecutors dismissed a first-degree murder charge against Stephen Lavance Oates, another man originally charged in Mahato's death, after witnesses changed their stories, leaving them with insufficient evidence to tie Oates to the crime.
Oates had maintained his innocence, saying his arrest was a case of mistaken identity, and prosecutors previously had acknowledged that Lovette told a witness he killed Mahato with someone named Phillip.
Lovette, 22, was convicted in Carson's death in 2011 and was resentenced on Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
His original sentence was life without parole, but last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that judges must consider mitigating circumstances before sentencing someone under the age of 18 to life without the possibility of parole.