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Police Make Arrest in Duke Homicide

Posted January 23, 2008
Updated January 24, 2008

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— Police investigating the slaying of a Duke University graduate student filed a murder charge Wednesday against one of the people arrested after a high-speed chase through Durham and Wake counties.

Stephen Lavance Oates Jr., 19, of 2303 Anthony Dr., was charged with murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon in connection with the shooting death of Duke University student Abhijit Mahato, 29. His body was found Saturday night in Apt. C-2 at the Anderson Apartments at 1600 Anderson St.

Oates and William Dozia Smith, 20, along with two 14-year-olds, were arrested on robbery charges following the chase Tuesday night.

The chase started shortly after 10 p.m. when Durham police Cpl. D.A. Ferrell spotted a white Taurus station wagon with Florida tags on Fayetteville Street near Massey Avenue. The vehicle matched the description of a vehicle used in a previous armed robbery.

Ferrell attempted to stop the vehicle, but the driver sped away and refused to stop.

Officers chased the Taurus on the Durham Freeway and U.S. 15-501 to Interstate 85 North and then back to U.S. 15-501 and Interstate 40.

The N.C. Highway Patrol took over the chase in Wake County and used stop sticks to flatten the vehicle’s tires. The Taurus came to a stop near Rock Quarry Road.

Smith, Oates and the two juveniles were arrested and charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon and felony fleeing to elude. The robbery charge is in connection with a couple held up at gunpoint on Lambeth Circle Sunday night. Investigators are trying to determine if the quartet is responsible for two other armed robberies in Durham.

Oates was also charged Tuesday night with a Nov. 19 armed robbery at Bennett Pointe Grill on Hillsborough Road.

Oates has a criminal record. He was charged with breaking and entering in 2005 and 2006. He was also charged in 2006 with assault on a female.

Oates is scheduled to be in court Thursday morning.

Mahato, originally from Tatangar, India, was studying for an engineering doctorate degree on computational mechanics at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. He was in his second year. 

A memorial service for Mahato is scheduled for Friday at 1 p.m. on Duke's campus.

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  • Coach K is GREAT Jan 24, 2008

    Gang related probably...
    All gang related murders should receive the death penalty.

    Prayers go out to this man's family.