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Friend: Money withdrawn from slain Duke student's savings

Posted January 14, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

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— Those who knew Abhijit Mahato say he was so brilliant that someday he would have changed the world.

By all accounts, the 29-year-old from Tatanagar, India, was an extremely social, outgoing and caring man who made friends easily.

Abhijit Mahato Struggle continues for slain Duke student's friends

He was gentle, intelligent, kind and thoughtful, friends remember. He enjoyed poetry and loved literature. He was a scientist studying for an engineering doctoral degree – his hope was to return, someday, to India and teach at the university level.

As a second-year graduate student at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering, Mahato had been working on tire-safety research sponsored by Michelin and was preparing to take his Ph.D. qualifying exams.

He and a group of buddies were also saving up to buy a car to get around.

But Mahato’s life was cut short nearly a year ago, when someone shot and killed him inside his off-campus apartment.

Autopsy results show a pillow was placed over his face before the single bullet that killed him was fired. Police consider the slaying a random crime – with robbery being the motive.

But what haunts Rinku Majumder, one of his closest friends and one of the three people who found his body on Jan. 18, 2008, is not knowing what happened.

The two were like brother and sister.

"I don't know why and how he loved me so much," she said. "And then he left me, like this. It's been really, really difficult for me to live my life."

Majumder says bank statements show two withdrawals – totaling $500 – from Mahato's savings account the day she found his body. She believes that withdrawal is connected to the crime.

“It is my feeling, because he would never withdraw from his savings account," Majumder said. "If he wants the money, he would withdraw from his checking account."

Durham police won’t talk about the case and won’t say if the information is part of the evidence. Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline also won’t discuss specifics outside the courtroom.

Friends say they've received little information about the investigation since the arrests of two suspects – Stephen Lavance Oates, 20, in January, and Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., in March.

“We just know they were caught, and that's it," said Samarban Majumder, Rinku's husband. "What's the state of the case, what is going on and what is going to happen? We don't know."

What little authorities have disclosed comes from search warrants and court proceedings.

Lovette allegedly stole a cell phone, wallet and an iPod – with a combined value of about $300 – before Mahato was shot to death inside his 1600 Anderson St. apartment, according to an arrest warrant.

The cell phone helped police link Lovette to the crime when he was arrested in March in the slaying of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill senior Eve Carson.

According to warrants in that case, Lovette and another man, Demario James Atwater, made several ATM withdrawals from her bank account before shooting her to death in a Chapel Hill neighborhood.

Cline has also said police found Mahato's iPod on Lovette and that investigators were not sure which suspect shot Mahato.

"He could have given everything they wanted," Renke Majumder said. "They could have just slapped him and taken his money and left him. Why did they have to kill him?"

Mahato's slaying rattled the Duke University community, especially the international student community, said Mike Schoenfeld, Duke's vice president for public affairs and government relations.

"The death of Abhijit Mahato last year was a very difficult moment for the campus – difficult for students, difficult for the faculty," Schoenfeld said. "After all, he was somebody that had been recruited and brought here with great promise."

As the criminal case continues, Mahato's colleagues at the Pratt School of Engineering say they try to focus on who he was as a person rather than the way his life ended.

"I think most of us have tried to separate that side, in the first place, and to focus on Abhijit's legacy," said Marianne Hassan, an associate dean at the school, who says she thinks about Mahato at least once a week, still.

"Instead of looking backward, we've been looking forward and taking positive steps, instead of drawing on such negative and hurtful actions," she continued.

The Pratt school has also set up a memorial fund for Mahato, and Duke University established the Abhijit Mahato Memorial Fellowship, which will provide financial support each year to a Duke international graduate student studying engineering, with preference to students from India.

"He was a special person. He was very special," Hassan said. "We really are hoping that his memory, as well as his legacy, will live onward."

29 Comments

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  • james27613 Jan 15, 2009

    Problem is the men charged with his death were on probation.

    They had convictions for serious crimes but received probation.

    Enough is enough, if you use a firearm in a crime,
    NO PROBATION, NO DEALS, NO NOTHING but JAIL.
    12 YEARS NO EARLY RELEASE.

    who are the Judges and the ADA on this case?
    Hold them accountable.

  • FromClayton Jan 15, 2009

    oh, believe me, if he was a student at duke, he had a student visa. he was not illegal. Duke could get in BIG trouble for that, and it is not worth it to them. This guy had all his papers in order before he walked onto that campus.

  • OneWarnin Jan 15, 2009

    Anyone can argue that the perps in this case were have nots and didn't have much of a future. I counter that these miscreants made choices that robbed them of a future and that no amount of understanding justifies the crimes they have committed.

  • bill52674 Jan 15, 2009

    hereandnow99,

    The story said he was recruited to study at Duke. If he was from another country (India) I'm willing to be he had a student visa.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Jan 15, 2009

    Animals that kill in our society need to get the death penalty. This will serve as a deterrent against others who decide to kill.

    On the other hand, the liberals and leftists in our society will say they killed because they were poor, no father at home, etc...

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jan 15, 2009

    This is a terrible, tragic loss of a great mind and an altruistic personality.

    But, where are the usual jerks who would question his immigration status? Could it be that this young man is the turning point in their realization that we shouldn't judge people on skin color or name?...and that all people should be valued?

    Hoping so...

  • 68_polara Jan 15, 2009

    "right never has any inclination to control our lives."

    and the left of course never has any inclination to control ours huh.

  • Hammerhead Jan 15, 2009

    "Typical, liberals say they are for free speech until they disagree what one has to say."
    Of course, the right never has any inclination to control our lives. It works both ways polara.

  • SO LOW Jan 15, 2009

    fatcat11: the Probation system did not put them on the streets, your judicial system did- that's who needs to get the thanks. Do you understand that if the scum skips probation and is not at their listed address, then the probation officers can't see them? Did you also pay attention that the COURT lost his paperwork when he was in court... not the probation officer. Did you also know that the officer assigned to the case had about 170 other probationers that she was responsible for? That ='s case overload and unfortunately somebody is going to slip through the cracks. Call Raleigh and demand more officers, call Gov Perdue and demand less leniency and probation cases, call DOC and demand less Chiefs and more officers!! That's what you can do to be pro-active and don’t get me wrong, I know probation had their part in all of this but it was a VERY small part that they controlled!! Open your eyes people!

  • 68_polara Jan 15, 2009

    "Typical liberal balderdash!"

    WooHoo: "I love these testaments to ignorance. If the best you can do is use the term 'liberal' to generalize ANY STATEMENT posted onlib you need to get off GoLo."

    In the entirety of what colliedave stated below that statement made sense. Is it because you dislike what some one else says that you think they should get off golo? Typical, liberals say they are for free speech until they disagree what one has to say.

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