State News

Vigil Honors Slain Duke Graduate Student

Posted March 24, 2008

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— Friends of Duke graduate student Abijhit Mahato want to make sure he is not forgotten. They gathered Monday night to remember his 29 years of life and to raise awareness of violence in the community.

Groups working to end violence in Durham organized the vigil, which was held outside the Anderson Street Apartments, where Mahato's body was found Jan 18.

The vigil was coordinated by the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham, Parents of Murdered Children and Durham Congregations in Action.

"Always laughing, always ready to help people. Taking life as it comes,” Tanmay Patni said as he remembered his former roommate at the memorial service.

"He wanted to do everything in life. He wanted to try everything in life. He wanted to go to Europe and see the US," he added.

Mahato, who was from Tatangar, India, was studying for an engineering doctoral degree in computational mechanics at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering.

"We were very lucky. I was very lucky to convince him to come to Duke and study for his PhD,” said Tod Lursen, Mahato's former PhD Adviser.

Lursen said Mahato's work ethic matched his brilliance.

"One of my students was fond of saying, that he'd never seen anybody who worked 80 hours a week, who was that happy about it all the time,” he said.

Mahato was shot at point-blank range in the forehead as a pillow was held tightly against his face, according to an autopsy report. His wallet, cell phone and iPod were stolen, police said.

Stephen Lavance Oates Jr., 19, and Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 17, both of Durham, have been charged with murder and robbery in Mahato's death.

Oates was arrested in January after a high-speed police chase. He faces charges in at least 15 other armed robberies, a shooting and an assault.

Lovette and Demario James Atwater, 21, of Durham, are also charged with the March 5 shooting death of UNC Student Body President Eve Carson.

Police said they found Mahato's cell phone and iPod on Lovette when they arrested him for Carson's slaying. Investigators traced numbers dialed from that cell phone to Oates.

The deaths of the college students have sparked a discussion about gang violence, although police have denied that the killings were gang-related.

At Lovette's March 14 court hearing, Durham County District Judge Craig Brown said he was "sending an SOS to Raleigh," calling for a special session of the Legislature to deal with gang violence.

Both Atwater and Lovette had committed probation violations when Mahato and Carson were killed.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • fatchanceimwrong Mar 25, 2008

    How long is WRAL going to run this story? People are killed every day without any mention from the media, but I've seen this guy's face & story for days. It's a tragic event, certainly, but enough is enough. There is other news to report.

  • piperchuck Mar 25, 2008

    "Why did it take so long to honor his death, it's been about a month am I correct..."

    LOL, another one. Sad, really, really sad.

  • piperchuck Mar 25, 2008

    "It does bother me that Duke didnt honor this man shortly after his killing... did they only do it because UNC did it for Carson? Did they only do it because someone was charged with his murder? Makes no sense..."

    It makes no sense because your version of the events doesn't match reality. It's getting really old reading comments from people alleging that things weren't done. Things were done by Duke not long after his death. People should do a bit of research before commenting about what may or may not have happened.

  • lizard78 Mar 25, 2008

    More value is given to some peoples lives in the media.

  • lizard78 Mar 25, 2008

    It's not about Duke vs. UNC. It's about a pretty white girl vs. and Indian guy.
    The media gives more value to certain peoples lives.
    How many murders are there in a normal week?

  • Alicat Mar 25, 2008

    A memorial service is just that. I don't understand the postings of the motive behind why it was done. The comparison to Eve Carson is utterly ridiculous. Who cares if its coincidental or whatever. Let the man rest in peace and all the naysayers on this post please grow up.

  • veekee Mar 25, 2008

    colliedave - conservatives don't have a lock on compassion or on action. I am glad you are taking action, but don't assume you are the only one or that members of YOUR network are the only ones. Plenty of people spend hours working trying to improve social conditions from all walks of life and from many different philosophical backgrounds.

    Hundreds of volunteers from my church do all the things you are doing, but I doubt 25% of them would label themselves "conservative" or "liberal". Just Christian.

  • Cheeksgirl Mar 25, 2008

    I just have to ask this question. Would this memorial service have happened if his murder was not linked to Eve Carson's murder?

    To have another memorial service for him after finding that the same person was involved in both is a bit too coincidental to me.

  • tlglass Mar 25, 2008

    this is not about comparing Duke and's about young innocent kids getting murdered, enough with the childish bickering.

  • Lblum Mar 25, 2008

    Duke did not do this vigil. According to the article "The vigil was coordinated by the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham, Parents of Murdered Children and Durham Congregations in Action."