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Feds cite shotgun blast in death-penalty decision in UNC slaying

Posted February 13, 2009

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— Federal prosecutors say Demario James Atwater fired the final shot that killed the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's student body president nearly a year ago.

In a notice of intent to seek the death penalty, prosecutors said Eve Marie Carson was "particularly vulnerable" when Atwater "fired a single shotgun round from close range through the victim's hand and into her brain."

She had already been wounded by four small-caliber gunshots, the notice said.

Prosecutors filed the notice Friday in U.S District Court.

It does not indicate whether investigators believe Atwater might have fired any of the other shots. According to Chapel Hill police search warrants returned last June, investigators believe both Atwater and Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr. shot Carson.

An autopsy found Carson, 22, was shot with a shotgun to the right temple and also sustained a wound to her right hand – likely because she had raised her right arm to protect herself.

Atwater, 22, was indicted in October on a federal carjacking charge resulting in death in connection with Carson's slaying.

Last month, federal prosecutors announced they would seek the death penalty if he is convicted.

Chapel Hill investigators believe Atwater and Lovette, 18, kidnapped Carson and forced her to withdraw $1,400 from ATMs before killing her in the early morning of March 5.

Police found her body in a neighborhood several blocks from the UNC campus while responding to reports of gunshots.

According to Friday's filing, which outlines the federal government's reasoning for seeking the death penalty, Atwater killed Carson "to eliminate her as a possible witness to other offenses, including, at least, kidnapping, carjacking and robbery."

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall has said he is also seeking the death penalty for Atwater on state charges, which include first-degree murder, robbery and kidnapping.

It's still unclear whether Lovette will face any federal charges.

Because he was under age 18 at the time of the crime of which he is accused, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling makes him ineligible for the death penalty.


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  • NZ Feb 13, 2009

    What if North Carolina begins to suffer with the thought of having to let go 50,000 prisoners like California, what will we do with folks like Lovette?

    Its time to start expediting trials and practicing organ harvesting like the Chinese, especially for folks like Atwater and Lovette. Its the only rational course, save precious resources for these villans or food for innocent children. Our nation makes that choice everyday, and irrationality has been winning, our day of reckoning is coming.

  • oldcorp Feb 13, 2009

    Capital punishment has proven to be a very effective tool against recidivism. For that alone, it should be employed in this and any similar cases.

  • drnc Feb 13, 2009

    Am I the only one who gets physically sick when reading about what these barbarians did?

  • EyesintheSkies Feb 13, 2009

    They should work hard labor everyday until the day they die. Make them do what they hate most in life.....work. No TV, no radio, no ipod, no computer, no Sundays, no Holidays. Shackled together, dig holes with a shovel, then fill it back in. Everyday until they die of old age.

  • james27613 Feb 13, 2009

    If they should ever escape, they would be a threat to society.

    Lethal injection is too easy, nobody is afraid of that,
    electric chair and hanging made people scared years ago.
    Not anymore.

    Put the convict inside a vacuum chamber and suck out the air
    by high vacuum pump, fast, no pain and cryo-freeze them solid.
    Tag and bag them.

    Time for Mandatory Firearms Crime Bill, you use a firearm in a crime, 12 years hard time, no pleas, no deals, no probation, no nothing, no excuses.

    These convicts were already out of jail when they should not have been on probation. A crime wave.

  • anne53ozzy Feb 13, 2009

    Executing people does not make the rest of us safer. This is a well known fact. It may have worked hundreds or thousands of years ago in small societal groups...don't know. It does not work now anymore than it keeps women in countries where they are subject to maiming or murder form marrying the ones they love. Killing as retribution does not work.....

  • teacher-mom Feb 13, 2009

    I think this was the right decision. It will not bring any of his victims back to life. I feel there is a link between these men and the pregnant mom that was killed in Raleigh. there is no telling what this man has done. Maybe, no one else will die because of him.

  • anne53ozzy Feb 13, 2009

    Just a thought...There is a staggering amount of money, time and talent spent, usually by government sponsored instituions, to wrestle these death penalty cases through the appeals processes mandated by law. Would not we all be better off to make life without parole the standard and put this money to better use? I believe that incarceation in an extremely closed environment for these menand women who committ the most horrific crimes would serve the same end and free up money to be put to better use for all of us.

  • Adelinthe Feb 13, 2009

    I think there need to be clearer ways to determine if one has little to no semblance of humanity within them, regardless of their age, and if they do, they need to be executed to keep the rest of us safer.

    Enough of this pandying to predators of any kind that will never change.

    We'd shoot a rabid wolf, and some of these perps have about the same reasoning and humanity as one - NONE!!!

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • vaulter Feb 13, 2009

    I think the law that prevents someone under the age of 18 from being executed is ridiculous. What is the difference between a murderer who is 17 years and 364 days old and one who is one day older? Absolutely crazy. If you kill someone, you die, period.