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Eve Carson murder suspect pleads guilty to federal charges

Posted April 19, 2010
Updated April 20, 2010

— One of two men accused in the 2008 shooting death of UNC's student body president will spend the rest of his life in prison after being convicted on federal charges in the case.

Demario Atwater UNC murder suspect avoids death in one trial

To avoid a possible death sentence, Demario James Atwater, 23, pleaded guilty Monday to five charges, including carjacking resulting in death and kidnapping resulting in death in the March 5, 2008, shooting of Eve Marie Carson.

His trial was set to begin in U.S. District Court May 3.

Atwater, however, still faces the death penalty on state charges in Carson's death, which include first-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery.

Carson's parents said in a statement Monday that they support the plea deal federal prosecutors made with Atwater.

"While we deplore the evil and negligence that led to Eve's death, we agree with the U.S. attorney's decision to accept the plea agreement," Bob Carson and Teresa Bethke said. "We are very grateful for the dedication and hard work that have gone into the investigation and prosecution of this crime."

"I want to express my condolences to the Carsons," Atwater's mother, Peggy Maybrey said Monday, declining further comment.

According to the agreement, filed Friday, Atwater also pleaded guilty to one count each of carrying and using firearms during and in relation to carjacking and kidnapping resulting in death, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of a short-barreled shotgun without such weapon being properly registered.

In addition to life imprisonment, Atwater could face fines of up to $750,000. Sentencing is scheduled in U.S. District Court on Sept. 23.

"Eve Carson's murder was a senseless, random act of violence," U.S. Attorney Anna Mills Wagoner said in a statement. "We hope this resolution will help the Carson family put this horrendous act behind them, as best they can, and move on with their lives."

Atwater's defense attorneys declined to comment on the plea.

"This case is a tragic case, and it's sad for a lot of people," attorney Kimberly Stevens said. "We've worked an appropriate resolution in federal court, and that's really our only comment."

"We're just glad that it was resolved in the way it was, and hopefully, the state case will proceed on," attorney Gregory Davis said.

Atwater is expected to appear in Orange County Superior Court next week for a pre-trial hearing on the state charges.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said Monday that the federal plea has no bearing on the state's case, which still has not been scheduled for trial.

"The federal charges were totally different than the state charges," Woodall said. "The federal charges weren't homicide charges, so the state charges still stand, and we go forward on those."

Death sentences in Orange County are rare. Juries there haven't returned one in about 70 years.

Chapel Hill police say Atwater and Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr. kidnapped Carson, forced her to withdraw money from ATMs, shot her five times, including once to the head.

Police responding to reports of gunfire found the 22-year-old from Athens, Ga., dead in a neighborhood less than a mile from the UNC campus.

Carson's legacy

A pre-med double major from Athens, Ga., Carson was a Morehead-Cain scholar who, university officials, students and friends said had left a legacy of community service in the UNC and Chapel Hill communities.

The university each year honors that legacy by awarding scholarships in her name to students who demonstrate leadership and community service.

Carson's friends talk about suspect's guilty plea Carson's friends talk about suspect's guilty plea

UNC officials had no comment on Monday's plea deal, but many students said they were pleased that the case is finally moving toward a resolution.

“It is one step in the closure. Obviously, it is not full closure, because we still do not know what is going to happen with the state of North Carolina," said Katherine Novinski, a junior whom Carson mentored. "I think that is what is important for the sake of the community – that the case just keeps going forward."

Carson's death sent shockwaves throughout the university and Chapel Hill communities, enraged state lawmakers and highlighted problems within North Carolina's probation and parole system.

Atwater and Lovette were on probation at the time of Carson's death, and a state investigation found that Atwater was never placed under intensive probation, despite two court orders to do so.

After pleading guilty to misdemeanor larceny and breaking and entering charges, Lovette, who was 17 at the time, was assigned a probation officer who was handling more than 120 cases, even though she had not completed basic training.

In the six weeks he was on probation from January to March 2008, he was arrested and released several times on nine charges, including burglary, car theft, breaking and entering and resisting arrest.

Lovette also faces a first-degree murder charge in the Jan. 18, 2008, shooting death of Duke graduate student Abhijit Mahato who was found dead in his apartment near campus.

Mahato, 29, originally from Tatangar, India, was studying for an engineering doctorate degree in computational mechanics at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. He was in his second year.

Trial dates for Lovette in both Carson's and Mahato's deaths are pending.

127 Comments

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  • dheepa630 Apr 20, 4:16 p.m.

    ooops. sorry - yes, we're pinning the death of the indian boy on these people as well. cause you know- if they did one, they did both. makes sense to me.

  • dheepa630 Apr 20, 4:11 p.m.

    Sorry - but let's also take note that 2 weeks before Eve died, an Indian student at Duke was killed. Have we even pretended to search for his killer, or because he wasn't student body president, white, female, and he was international - it doesn't matter if his attacker is found. At the Duke/carolina game there was a moment of silence for Duke - even the Dukies had a moment for Eve, but this Indian boy who came to this country for an eductaion with no family and very few friends was put aside. funny how things work. this makes me sad to be american.

  • bmg379 Apr 20, 12:19 p.m.

    ok so 2 crakheads were out riding and saw a pretty college girl all alone in a home with lights on,she could have been anyones daughter alone at college,they somehow forced entry or caught her coming outside,kidnapped her took her for a ride and used her atm card,did they sexually assult her? hmm after the poor sobbing girl did everything they wanted and more was pleading for her life,they with no thought executed her and went on their way.probably still high.

    and this after they had executed a duke student a bit earlier with no thought????

    and they have any rights ,how?????

    now lets see what should we do with them???????

    Anyone want to pipe in on this one?

  • rick_slick Apr 20, 11:45 a.m.

    So he'll be on the street in 20 years when some bleeding heart liberal parole board kicks him free or the ACLU files an "overcrowding" lawsuit? No justice, No peace!

  • Cricket at the lake Apr 20, 11:23 a.m.

    Why did they have to kill them, wasn't robbing them enough? So many good posts, like they would cry like babies if they were the victims and some "eye for an eye justice" might be appropriate here. Fetuses grow into adults. Abortion can bring horrible guilt that is NEVER discussed, more guilt than these 2 murderers probably ever felt for Eve or Abhijit. Thank god they are off the street.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Apr 20, 11:06 a.m.

    What's the odds that these punks' friends ever read these posts. They're all weak punks. If someone held a gun on them like they did to this young girl, they would squirm and cry like a baby. Too bad we can't give them the EXACT same judgement that they gave this girl.

  • brighteyesss12 Apr 20, 11:02 a.m.

    I wonder why a plea deal was even offered. There usually isn't one unless the prosecutors have some doubt to the defendant being found guilty. In any case, I hope the Carson and Mahato families can find some sort of peace.

  • Great Dane Guy Apr 20, 10:56 a.m.

    Although I sympathize with both families, I feel especially bad for the family of Abhijit Mahato. His murder was no less of a crime than the murder of Eve Carson, but hardly anyone here has expressed any outrage over his senseless muder. I wonder why that is.

  • brighteyesss12 Apr 20, 10:54 a.m.

    Parole no longer exist in NC, so he's locked up for good.

  • rble0323 Apr 20, 10:29 a.m.

    I will be pro-abortion the very first time a fetus commits murder. To be pro-life and to support the death penalty is not taking inconsistent positions. I support jail for criminals but not cages for children. Context and circumstances are important.

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