Local News

Prosecutors Unsure Which Suspect Shot Duke Grad Student

Posted April 9, 2008
Updated April 10, 2008

— A Durham County prosecutor said in court Thursday that investigators do not know for sure whether Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr. pulled the trigger in the shooting death of a Duke University graduate student, though he is charged with the murder.

Assistant District Attorney Tracey Cline also revealed in a court hearing that detectives used ballistic evidence to track down the other person charged in the Jan. 18 slaying of Abhijit Mahato.

Witnesses to other armed robberies where the same gun was used said co-defendant Stephen Oates was the shooter in those cases, Cline said.

"We don't have any information to say that ... (Lovette) was, in fact, the shooter or not," Cline said. "We just don't know at this point."

Mahato, 29, was shot between the eyes at point-blank range during a robbery at his apartment near the Duke campus, police said.

Lovette, 17, was linked to the case, Cline said, through Mahato's cell phone, which was used on the night of his death to call several of Lovette's friends.

She also said Lovette had some of Mahato's possessions when he was arrested last month in the March 5 shooting death of Eve Carson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student body president.

Cline said investigators also learned Lovette had told several people "they had to kill somebody" in the Mahato robbery.

Meanwhile, Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Stephens denied a motion from Lovette's attorney for a protective order to limit who can talk about the case in public.

In a motion she filed last month, Karen Bethea-Shields said a lead investigator divulged information about the case in front of a local reporter on March 26 at the Durham County Courthouse.

"We are seeing now that we have extensive and persistent publicity in this case about every aspect of this particular defendant's life," Bethea-Shields said, as Lovette sat at her side wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and shackles. "Trial by media is not what our Constitution stands for."

Cline said that there are already many guidelines governing the disclosure of information to the public and that her office has followed them. She said she could not control what politicians do.

"I've seen nothing done by anyone in this case that rises to the level that would require this court to assign a protective order," Superior Court Judge Ronald Stephens said.

Bethea-Shields cited examples of local politicians, including District Court Judge Marcia Morey and County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Ellen Reckhow, who both disclosed juvenile information about Lovette to local reporters when it should have been confidential.

She said she is also concerned about comments made last month by District Court Judge Craig Brown, who during Lovette's bond hearing called on state lawmakers to pass legislation to crack down on gangs.

Bethea-Shields also said Durham Mayor Bill Bell called for a review of Lovette's case and requested a public report concerning how authorities responded to a complaint from a crime victim.

"He has already been prejudiced enough," she said.

Stephens also denied a motion to reduce Lovette's bond from $3 million to $500,000, a request that drew a gasp from the courtroom. Lovette is being held without bond in Carson's death in Orange County.

Lovette's family members were in court for Thursday but declined to comment.

Mindy Solie, the owner of the Anderson Street apartment complex where Mahato – a native of India – lived, was also in court.

"I feel that he was entrusted to us," Solie said. "He was living in our apartments, and I'm here because I think of him every day."


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  • ladyblue Apr 11, 2008

    Mahato, 29, was shot between the eyes at point-blank range during a robbery at his apartment near the Duke campus, police said.

    It matters not if he pulled the trigger. he's just as fuilty. I get so sick of criminals having more rights than the victims they do harm to.

  • k8kay2 Apr 11, 2008

    I know most African Americans are good hard working honest people and hate this as much as I do, probably worse. But I gotta tell you I need to stop looking at this case and stop watching the TV news.It really tainting my view of things.

    Almost every time you see a murder or bad crime committed around here it seems to always be African American gang related. This is getting to be an epidemic.

    As much as I know it isn't fair and I try to remain optimistic, its so hard to not become very disgusted & resentful of the criminal element that are making this such a screwed up world we live in.

    But wait until the Latino gangs get strong here. From what I hear from people who have experienced Latino gangs, the Black gangs are kind people in comparison.

    So now you can dismiss me as a racist if you want. So be it. I know I didn't used to feel this way. But remember racists are not born that way, they're made.

  • Iamcornholio Apr 11, 2008

    To heck with Iraq, send them to me and forget about them!

  • k557451 Apr 11, 2008

    Send them to Iraq - no body armor- and let them see what it is like to be at the recieving end of people who do not care about another person's life.

  • b4self Apr 11, 2008

    I agree balckdog and had to kill someone sounds like gangs to me .Why else would yu have to kill someone if not to pass into gang

  • readme Apr 11, 2008

    I have seen this before where two guys beat one of my friends to death. The prosecuters couldn't prove which one dealt that killing blow, and they both got light sentences. Well, I consider 8-10 years light for killing one of my friends anyway. This was not in NC, but it's the same here. I personally think if these guys are guilty they should both not see their next birthday.

  • PaulRevere Apr 11, 2008

    Let me try this again since my last comment wasn't published. It's obvious that neither waste of oxygen is going to rat the other one out, so the only reasonable solution is to give both of them the death penalty. Of course, I won't guarantee either of them will even get life with an Orange County DA and jury in charge.

  • blackdog Apr 11, 2008

    ...he had to kill someone...That is premeditation.

  • starrider99 Apr 11, 2008

    Durham officials - please make an example of the criminals in these kinds of cases.

    It's not a fix-all solution but it will help deter the escalating rate of violent crime in this area.

  • willis2 Apr 11, 2008

    Check for fingerprints on the gun's clip. Tough to load wearing gloves.