Hillsborough, N.C. — One of the men accused of killing a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student body president in 2008 was in court Monday for the beginning of his first-degree murder trial.
If convicted, Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 20, could spend the rest of his life in prison for the death of Eve Marie Carson. He pleaded not guilty Nov. 17 and can't get the death penalty because he was under 18 at the time of the crime.
Defense attorneys asked Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour not to allow prosecutors to present evidence about the murder of another college student whom Lovette is also charged with killing.
Lovette is one of two men charged with first-degree murder in the Jan. 18, 2008, death of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato, 29, whose body was found in his off-campus apartment. A date hasn't yet been set for that trial.
"The court has to scrutinize carefully whether or not we will be trying one murder case or two murder cases," defense attorney Karen Bethea-Shields said.
District Attorney Jim Woodall said there are too many similarities in the cases to exclude evidence in Mahato's death. He says five witnesses say Lovette told them he was involved in Mahato's murder. One says Lovette even pointed out the apartment complex where the graduate student was killed a short time after the crime and noted police hadn't yet discovered the body.
Woodall says another witness says Lovette told him shortly after getting out of jail that he needed money and was looking for people to rob and kill. Prosecutors say the motive in both cases was stealing money from ATMs.
Defense attorneys questioned the credibility of those witnesses, saying some had changed their stories and that others may have had motives, such as trying to get sentences reduced or avoid being charged.
Baddour denied the defense's motion, saying he will allow some evidence about Mahato's death.
Jury selection begins at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in Lovette's trial for Carson's death. Each potential juror will be questioned individually. The process is expected to take four or five days.
Lawyers said they believe the trial could wrap up before Christmas.
An autopsy report indicates that Carson was shot five times, with the fatal shot being a shotgun blast to the head. The report also says that she suffered a wound to her right hand – likely because she had raised her right arm to protect herself.
Another man arrested in the case, Demario James Atwater, is serving two life prison sentences after pleading guilty last year to first-degree murder and several federal charges. It is possible that he could testify against Lovette.
Authorities say the two men chose Carson at random, kidnapped her and forced her to withdraw cash from two ATMs before shooting her and leaving her body on a neighborhood street about a half-mile from the UNC campus.