Local News

Witness saw men near Carson's home hours before her death

Posted December 8, 2011
Updated December 15, 2011

— A former University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student testified Thursday in the murder trial of Laurence Lovette Jr. that she saw two men on a Chapel Hill street near Eve Carson's home hours before the student body president was found dead three years ago.

Caroline Harper Day 2 trial testimony

Caroline Harper said she had just finished talking to her boyfriend on her cellphone around 3:30 a.m. March 5, 2008, when she noticed through her rearview mirror two black men in their late teens or early 20s standing near a large garbage bin in the Rosemary Street parking lot of the Pi Beta Phi sorority.

They were wearing dark baggy clothes, hooded shirts and caps under the hood.

"They were standing there looking at me," Harper said. "It was just a couple of seconds before I got really frightened and drove away."

As she left, she said, she saw the men walking toward Friendly Lane, about a block away, where prosecutors say Eve Carson was last seen hours earlier working on a paper.

Less than two hours later, surveillance video from the sorority house showed two men matching the descriptions on the men Harper saw walking past the sorority house in the opposite direction, Chapel Hill police investigator Bryan Walker testified.

Lovette, 21, is charged with first-degree murder in Carson’s death. Authorities say he and another man kidnapped her, drove her to two ATMs where they withdrew or tried to withdraw money from her checking account and then shot her five times in the middle of a neighborhood less than a mile from UNC.

Defense attorneys tried to keep the jury from hearing Harper’s testimony, saying it was irrelevant to the case and prejudicial to their client.

Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour, however, agreed with prosecutors that it put the men in the vicinity of Carson’s home at about the same time they contend Lovette and his co-defendant, Demario Atwater, kidnapped Carson.

The clothes Harper described were similar to what Lovette and Atwater had been wearing that night, Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said.

Earlier Thursday, Stan Godwin, a vice president of customer relations for Bank of America, testified that someone tried eight times within an hour to withdraw money from Carson’s Bank of America accounts at University Mall in Chapel Hill and at Northgate Mall in Durham.

Godwin said $700 was from the Chapel Hill ATM – the maximum daily amount.

The last attempt at a withdrawal was made at 4:44 a.m. in Durham, he said, less than 30 minutes before police found Carson's body in Chapel Hill.

Within the next 32 hours, there were 10 more withdrawal attempts. Two were at the Morehead Mini Mart in Durham, beginning at 12:39 p.m. March 5.

Six were made, beginning at 2:16 a.m. March 6, at the Northgate Bank of America, where $700 more was withdrawn.

Two more were attempted at 12:54 a.m. at the Carolina Foodmart BP station on North Alston Avenue in Durham. By that time, the bank had put transaction stops on Carson’s accounts, Godwin said.

Jurors also saw surveillance video from the ATMs of a man who resembled Lovette in Carson's SUV making transactions.

Selina Hughes, a witness representing Bank of America, said the video showed a man pulling up to the ATM with two other passengers. Baddour struck Hughes' testimony about the passengers at the defense's objection.

The state has said that witness testimony, the surveillance photos and DNA found on the inside driver-side door of Carson’s Toyota Highlander tie Lovette and Atwater to Carson’s death.

During her opening statement Wednesday, defense attorney Karen Bethea-Shields conceded that Lovette knew Atwater and that the prosecution will have evidence connecting him to Carson's SUV, but she denied Lovette was with Atwater when he shot Carson with a shotgun. Many of the witnesses for the prosecution will have criminal records and motives to lie, she said.

"There's no forensic evidence to connect Laurence Lovette to the killing of Eve Carson," Bethea-Shields said.

Atwater, 25, pleaded guilty last year to state and federal charges in the case and was sentenced to two life prison terms.

Lovette will not face the death penalty if convicted because he was a minor at the time of the shooting. If he’s convicted, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

105 Comments

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  • Country Girlz Have MORE fun Dec 9, 2011

    JUSTIC FOR EVE !!!!

  • swtninnocent1609 Dec 9, 2011

    nobody is defending these men by no means on my half so maybe need to re read the ending of what i said ... yes they will have to live with this for the rest of their lives in jail and i hope it haunts them ... & it might not bother them but they will have to LIVE WITH IT ... just sayin

  • st295x98 Dec 9, 2011

    goozleboy - nice... I'd like to go on that hunt!!

  • jstewartnc Dec 9, 2011

    needle is too good for them... get an old tire, put some gas in it and place around their neck. Do it in a public place. That's a deterrent.

  • asocha2 Dec 9, 2011

    This will not eat at them, they are vicious killers with no conscience. The only things they are going to be concerned with are when they are getting their next meal and who is going to want some action tonight! ~Chattycat

    EXACTLY. This is why I say strap their rear ends to the gurney and give them the needle. They will be going out a lot more peacefully than poor Eve did the night she was brutally murdered by these creeps. Let God take care of them and send them to where they will eventually end up.

  • warbirdlover Dec 9, 2011

    How many of ya'll are getting sick and tired of these houligans running around terrorizing the community. The Criminal has more rights than the victims, and this is totally wrong. They talk about cruel and inhumane treatment, what about the terror of the vicims when they knew they were about to die????? How can we be concidered enlightened civilised country, if we let the criminals, dictate the rules of the game. We let people whom have never done nothing but live off labors of others like leeches, have all the rights to do whatever they want, and recieve very little punishment for their actions, so the whole thing snowballs until the criminals rule the streets. I believe that honest hard working peoples are getting feed up with all the senseless crime being commited againt them.

  • chattycat Dec 9, 2011

    @ "personally they will have to live with this for the rest of their lives, and i hope it haunts them everyday of their life & eats at them, when they lay down at night i hope all they can see is this poor innocent girls face in their nightmares, its sad when you got heartless people out there in the world."

    This will not eat at them, they are vicious killers with no conscience. The only things they are going to be concerned with are when they are getting their next meal and who is going to want some action tonight!

  • Milkman Dec 9, 2011

    Nice to see a trail where the state has real evidence, witnesses who actually saw something, a weapon linked to the defendant. Wow. I didn't think the state actually took cases like that to trial anymore.

  • goozleboy Dec 9, 2011

    Actually, I hope they both go free so someone can use them for target practice.

  • goozleboy Dec 9, 2011

    @ "personally they will have to live with this for the rest of their lives, and i hope it haunts them everyday of their life & eats at them, when they lay down at night i hope all they can see is this poor innocent girls face in their nightmares, its sad when you got heartless people out there in the world."

    They, just like the lawyers who defend their actions, don't give a flip about anything but greed. There being allowed to breathe is a crime against humanity itself. Pathetic waste of air and space!

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