Friend of Lovette could face charges in Duke student's murder
Posted July 25, 2014
Durham, N.C. — Durham Chief Assistant District Attorney Roger Echols said Friday that his office is considering possible charges against the friend of a man accused of murdering Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato six years ago.
Meanwhile Friday, closing arguments in Laurence Lovette's first-degree murder trial were scheduled for Monday morning after prosecutors rested their case and defense attorneys chose not to call any witnesses.
More than two dozen people testified over six days of testimony, including Phillip Maybrey, who took the witness stand saying he initially told police he was with Lovette and that he heard him shoot the 29-year-old Mahato early on the morning of Jan. 18, 2008.
But Maybrey, 22, also said he lied because investigators "deceived him" when they showed up at his job telling him they wanted to talk to him about another case.
"I felt very offended and disrespected, because I'd been lied to," Maybrey said. "They could have come to me like a man and said 'We want to talk to you about this murder.'"
Maybrey testified under a subpoena on Monday and acknowledged that his testimony could expose him to criminal liability.
"I just told them what they wanted to hear," he said.
Echols wouldn't say Friday if prosecutors have previously pursued charges against Maybrey, and he did not say what charges might be possible or offer a timetable on a decision.
Maybrey is the half-brother of Demario Atwater, who, along with Lovette, is serving life in prison for the death of 22-year-old Eve Carson, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student killed nearly two months after Mahato.
Shanita Love – the state's key witness and Atwater's ex-girlfriend – testified Wednesday that Lovette, 23, admitted to the Duke slaying and said that Carson's death was a copycat murder.
Love's testimony was also key in Lovette's 2011 conviction for Carson's slaying.
Both Carson and Mahato were college students who were ambushed at their homes and taken to ATMs to withdraw hundreds of dollars. Carson was shot five times in a neighborhood near UNC. Mahato was taken back to his apartment near Duke and shot once in the head.
The only difference in the cases, Love testified, is that Maybrey was with Lovette in the January crime and Atwater was with him in March.
In addition to Lovette, police initially charged Stephen Lavance Oates in Mahato's death. Prosecutors, however, dismissed the charges last year, citing insufficient evidence tying him to the crime.
Defense attorneys – who contend Love is not credible – told Superior Court Judge Jim Hardin that they were considering calling Oates to testify next week, prompting Hardin to issue an order to have him appear in court.
Although he was no longer implicated in Mahato's death, Oates is serving a prison sentence for convictions in a series of other robberies and shootings in January 2008.
On Thursday and Friday, forensic firearms investigator Stephanie Walcott testified for the state that a shell casing from Mahato's Anderson Street apartment was fired from the same 9 mm Luger as a shell casing found at the scene of a second shooting – a crime prosecutors have also linked to Lovette through Love.
That second shooting, in which a man was shot in the leg, happened March 19, 2008, at an apartment on Chapel Hill Boulevard in Durham – a mile from Mahato's home.
What jurors didn't hear from Walcott, however, is that the shell casing from another shooting on Duke University Road – also on March 19, 2008 – was also fired from the same 9 mm weapon.
Oates, according to Lovette's defense, was arrested in that case.
"If they want to bring that up about this other shooting, there's a mechanism for them to do that, and that's a presentation of their case," prosecutor Jim Dornfried said Thursday.
He objected to jurors hearing about Oates in cross-examination.
"I'm not really understanding why the state is objecting, and I really now know it wasn't a mistake that you did not put it into evidence," defense attorney Karen Bethea-Shields said. "I'm not really understanding why we're having a problem making sure the jury understands all (Walcott) found out."