Local News

Federal trial date set for suspect in UNC student's death

Posted April 8, 2009 11:04 a.m. EDT
Updated May 25, 2009 5:51 p.m. EDT

— Demario James Atwater, one of the suspects in the March 2008 kidnapping and murder of UNC's student body president, will stand trial beginning Nov. 2, a federal judge has decided.

In an order filed Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James A. Beaty Jr. denied the request of Atwater's defense lawyers to delay the trial until January 2010.

Beaty found the defense had not asked for the additional time to prepare for the trial, but rather had argued that the trial should be continued "in order to accommodate holiday schedules for potential jurors in November and December."

A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for June 4 in the case.

Federal prosecutors in February outlined a plan to seek the death penalty against Atwater, alleging that he killed Eve Carson "to eliminate her as a possible witness to other offenses, including, at least, kidnapping, carjacking and robbery."

At the time of her death, Carson was a senior and president of the student body at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Chapel Hill investigators believe Atwater, 22, and Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 18, kidnapped Carson and forced her to withdraw $1,400 from ATMs before killing her in the early morning of March 5.

According to search warrants in the case, investigators believe both Atwater and Lovette shot Carson. Atwater was indicted in October on a federal carjacking charge resulting in death in connection with Carson's slaying.

Because Lovette was under 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. He has not been indicted on federal charges.

Both men face charges of murder, kidnapping, armed robbery and larceny in Orange County, where District Attorney Jim Woodall has said he will seek the death penalty for Atwater. Trial dates on the state charges have not been set.