Local News

Suspect pleads not guilty in UNC shooting death

Posted November 17, 2011 11:47 a.m. EST
Updated November 17, 2011 6:09 p.m. EST

— A Durham man was formally arraigned Thursday on charges in the fatal shooting three years ago of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's student body president.

Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 20, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and several other charges in the March 5, 2008, death of Eve Marie Carson, who was kidnapped, robbed, shot and left dead on a residential street about a half-mile from the UNC campus.

Jury selection in scheduled to begin Nov. 29.

Attorneys argued several motions Thursday afternoon, including a defense request to prohibit prosecutors from showing jurors several photos taken of Carson at the crime scene.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said the images, illustrating how her body was found, particularly her hands, and that they would be strong evidence for the jury to consider.

But defense attorney Karen Bethea-Shields said the photos are prejudicial and gruesome and that the state had other photos depicting the position of the body.

Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour denied the request.

An autopsy report indicates that Carson was shot five times, with the fatal shot being a shotgun blast to the head. The report also says that she suffered a wound to her right hand – likely because she had raised her right arm to protect herself.

Prosecutors have said in previous hearings that the crime was random and that Lovette and another man, Demario James Atwater, went to Carson's home, abducted her and took her in her blue Toyota Highlander to make two $700 ATM withdrawals before killing her on Hillcrest Road.

Atwater is serving two life prison sentences after pleading guilty last year to first-degree murder and several federal charges. Woodall would not say whether Atwater might be called to testify in the trial.

Lovette faces a life prison sentence without the possibility of parole if he's convicted. He can't receive the death penalty because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling limiting the death penalty to those over age 18 at the time of a capital crime.

Lovette is also one of two men charged with first-degree murder in the Jan. 18, 2008, death of 29-year-old Abhijit Mahato, a Duke University graduate student found dead in his off-campus apartment. A date hasn't been set for that trial.