Local News

Prosecutors link stolen Mercedes to Duke grad student's death

Posted July 24

Laurence Lovette, on trial for first-degree murder in the 2008 shooting death of Abhijit Mahato, listens to testimony on July 22, 2014.

— A woman whose car was stolen a day before Abhijit Mahato was found shot to death six years ago testified Thursday that she was asleep in her bed when someone broke into her Durham home and took the keys from her purse that had been in the upstairs room where she lay.

Margie Scott told jurors in the murder trial of Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr. that she awoke on the morning of Jan. 17, 2008, to a side door damaged and her emptied purse on the downstairs floor of her den.

The keys were missing, and so was the 1999 silver Mercedes Benz that had been parked in her driveway when she went to bed around 11 p.m. the night prior.

"I was devastated, then, because that's when I realized someone was in the house and they were in our bedroom while we were sleeping," she said. "And we heard nothing."

Scott said she also awoke around 3 a.m. and noticed lights on in her office, where a couple of desk drawers had been pulled open, and another room across the hall.

"At that time, I just thought maybe we forgot to turn off the lights,” she said. “But I said, 'We sure left a lot of lights on' but wasn't thinking anything out of the ordinary."

Police later recovered the Mercedes. By that time, Mahato had been found on the floor of his bedroom dead from a gunshot wound to the head and $520 taken from his savings account.

Prosecutors seeking robbery and first-degree murder convictions against the 23-year-old Lovette, contend he took Mahato in Scott's car to withdraw the money from an ATM and then took Mahato back to his apartment and killed him.

Witnesses say Lovette admitted to breaking into a home and stealing a Mercedes while a woman was asleep, and they also say he talked about killing Mahato after seeing the 29-year-old Duke University graduate student outside the apartment.

Defense attorneys, however, contend the state has no evidence linking their client to Mahato's death.

There is no DNA or fingerprints and the only ballistics evidence presented at trial has been two shell casings – one found next to Mahato on Jan. 18, 2008, and another recovered the next day from an a different apartment complex where Lovette allegedly admitted to shooting a man in the leg during a robbery – that were fired from the a 9 mm Luger handgun.

There were no eyewitnesses, and the state's key witness – the only person able to link all the state's evidence – is not credible, the defense says, because she initially denied knowing anything about the crime. Later, however, she provided several details to the contrary.

However, prosecutors – who could wrap up their case as early as Friday – say Lovette has a history of targeting people to rob and that he randomly set his sights on Mahato and had a plan to kill him.

"Mr. Lovette just didn't intend to rob Abhijit Mahato," Durham Assistant District Attorney Jim Dornfried said in opening statements last week. "He decided he was going to eliminate the witness and kill him in cold blood with absolutely no provocation. And that's what this case is about."

15 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • xxxxxxxxxxxxx Jul 25, 9:19 a.m.

    sound sleepers....they need a dog or something

    — Posted by scubagirl2

    It's truly frightening to think that someone can break into your home while you're sleeping, but the article in the Durham Herald says that she saw the lights on, saw the drawers opened and WENT BACK TO BED! In the morning they discovered that the door had been kicked in. How on earth can anyone sleep through their door being kicked in and someone rampaging through their house? And then when they find it, they go back to bed??

  • THD Jul 25, 8:32 a.m.

    And he still doesn't care

    Death penalty please

  • jwsawyer Jul 24, 2:54 p.m.

    What a sad situation.

  • Jordy Jul 24, 12:33 p.m.

    The owner of the Mercedes is very lucky she is alive.

  • jurydoc Jul 24, 12:19 p.m.

    Why are we wasting tax payer money on this creep? Drop him and Phillip in a volcano and be done... View More

    — Posted by dancerdot

    If the defense attorneys did not mount an aggressive defense, the defendant would have additional grounds for appeal after conviction for "ineffective assistance of counsel." Let the process play out. Justice is about following procedures, not about truth-finding.

  • dancerdot Jul 24, 12:13 p.m.

    Why are we wasting tax payer money on this creep? Drop him and Phillip in a volcano and be done with it! There is no justice for the victims in this case. They are dead. It is after the fact. I'm dissappointed with the court system. There is no truth..... only objecttions and overrule from the defense. Don't they know the right thing to do is admit guilt and try to live a better life. Yet, the defense is being ridiculously politically correct and making sure this rat is allowed his human rights. Problem is Laurence is an animal.

  • mrschizzy Jul 24, 12:03 p.m.

    @Wolfpack - I am taking your comment as sarcasm. I sincerely hope you meant it that way!

    So the only thing linking this car to this crime is that someone saw him driving it in the area? It does seem like a touchy case without any physical evidence at all, though I don't doubt he's guilty.

  • HANS FOR PRESIDENT!!!!! JK Jul 24, 11:52 a.m.

    @gingerlynn, it's because yesterday they didn't read the next paragraph in yesterday's article that stated a benz matching that description was stolen.

  • jurydoc Jul 24, 11:52 a.m.

    enough already..guilty!!first degree murder..death sentence!!show some guts mr and ms. on this... View More

    — Posted by rickandlinda88

    For about the hundredth time. . . Lovette cannot receive the death penalty. It is against the law since he was 17 at the time of the commission of the crimes. It is out of the jury's hands. If he is found guilty he will receive a sentence of life without parole.

  • Wolfpacklumberjack Jul 24, 11:33 a.m.

    If we only had more money in our head start programs and more money dedicated to our elementary-middle & high schools and more money for reduced and free breakfast and lunch programs and more money for free college tuition and more money for government housing and food stamp programs this tragedy would have never happened because Mr. Lovette would have turned out a model citizen. Why don't we have more money in programs to help people like Mr. Lovette, POOORR Mr. Lovette........

More...