Slain Duke grad student's savings account was drained
Posted July 21
Updated July 22
Durham, N.C. — Someone made three ATM withdrawals totaling $520 from the savings account of Abhijit Mahato early on the morning of Jan. 18, 2008 – more than 21 hours before friends found him shot to death in his Durham home, a former police investigator testified Monday.
Art Holland, a detective who worked financial crimes for the Durham Police Department, told jurors on the second day of testimony in Laurence Lovette's murder trial that just a little more than $5 remained in the 29-year-old Duke graduate student's account.
His checking account, which had a balance of more than $4,000, however, was untouched.
Security video of an ATM on University Drive – approximately 2 miles from Mahato's Anderson Street apartment – at the exact time of those withdrawals showed what appeared to be a light-colored Mercedes pulling up and staying for about three minutes, Holland said. No one was recorded on the video.
The first withdrawal, at 2:12 a.m., was for $200, Holland said. The second, at 2:13 a.m., was for $60, and the third, at 2:14 a.m., was for $260.
Durham prosecutors say Lovette, 23, targeted Mahato from outside Mahato's apartment and took him to the ATM before returning to the apartment and shooting him once in the head.
"Mr. Lovette just didn't intend to rob Abhijit Mahato. He decided he was going to eliminate the witness and kill him in cold blood with absolutely no provocation," Assistant District Attorney Jim Dornfried said during opening statements Friday. "And that's what this case is about."
Peggy Maybrey – the mother of Demario Atwater, Lovette's co-defendant in the March 5, 2008, robbery and shooting death of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill senior Eve Carson – testified Monday afternoon that she saw Lovette driving a gray Mercedes in January 2008.
Her 22-year-old son, Phillip Maybrey, testified Monday that he admitted in a September 2013 police interview that he was with Lovette the night of Mahato’s death. But Phillip Maybrey said he lied because investigators deceived him when they showed up at his job telling him they wanted to talk to him about another case.
"I felt very offended and disrespected, because I'd been lied to," Phillip Maybrey said. "They could have come to me like a man and said we want to talk to you about this murder."
Phillip Maybrey has not been charged in Mahato's death, and Dornfried said in court that he's not been offered immunity or any kind of deal in exchange for his testimony.
Later this week, jurors are expected to hear from Atwater's ex-girlfriend, Shanita Love, who Dornfried said Friday led investigators to charge Lovette when he was arrested March 13, 2008, for Carson's murder.
Dornfried said Love told police that she heard Lovette talking about how he and Phillip Maybrey took Mahato to the ATM, withdrew money and returned to Mahato's apartment.
She's expected to take the stand outside the presence of the jury on Tuesday, when the Superior Court Judge Jim Hardin will decide how her testimony and Carson's murder will be presented to the jury.
That could take most of the day, and Hardin ordered jurors not to report for duty Tuesday and to check at in at the end of the day to find out about when they need to return Wednesday.
Carson, 22, was shot five times in a Chapel Hill neighborhood near the UNC campus on the morning of March 5, 2008, after a nearly two-hour ordeal in which Lovette and Atwater kidnapped her from her home and drove her to two ATMs, where Lovette withdrew $700 from her bank account.
Atwater pleaded guilty to the crime in 2010, and Lovette was convicted in December 2011. Both men are serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.