Local News

Prosecution, defense rest in UNC murder trial

Posted December 15, 2011 12:23 p.m. EST
Updated December 16, 2011 6:39 a.m. EST

— After calling 43 witnesses over seven days, prosecutors rested their case Thursday afternoon in the trial of Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., who is charged with first-degree murder in the 2008 death of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student body president Eve Carson.

Lovette's defense attorneys offered no evidence, and Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour scheduled closing arguments for Monday morning to give attorneys time to prepare.

Testimony Thursday centered on cellphone records and surveillance video, which the state says put Lovette in Chapel Hill before Carson was found dead in a neighborhood about a mile from the UNC campus.

Michael Sutton, a special agent with the FBI, who said that, at 3:02 a.m. on March 5, 2008, Lovette's cellphone made a connection to a tower near East Franklin Street, approximately 0.3 miles from Carson's off-campus home.

In the hours before and after that connection, all cellphone activity went through a cellphone tower in Durham, Sutton said.

Prosecutors say Lovette, 21, and another man, Demario Atwater, kidnapped Carson, a senior, took her in her Toyota Highlander to withdraw money from her Bank of America checking account and then shot her five times in a Chapel Hill neighborhood about a mile from UNC.

Michael Smith, a computer forensics analyst for the State Bureau of Investigation, also testified Thursday that the last activity on Carson's computer was at 3:37 a.m. the day she died. She accessed a UNC website, he said.

Other witnesses have testified over the past week that less than 21 minutes later, $700 was withdrawn from Carson's bank account at a Chapel Hill ATM. There were also several failed attempts to withdraw more at the same machine as well as one in Durham.

Images from the Chapel Hill ATM, witnesses testified, show Lovette driving Carson's SUV.

James Trevillian, a forensic video analyst with the SBI, said Thursday that, when he enhanced surveillance video, he found more people in the car.

“I was able to detect there were two people in the back of the vehicle," he said.

Police found Carson's body shortly after a woman called 911 at 5:08 a.m. She said she heard gunshots and then a woman's scream.

Defense attorney Karen Bethea-Shields has admitted that Lovette knew Atwater and that the prosecution can connect him to Carson's SUV, but the defense has denied that Lovette was with Atwater when he shot Carson with a shotgun.

Many of the witnesses for the prosecution have criminal records and motives to lie, Bethea-Shields said, and there's no forensic evidence to connect Lovette to Carson's killing.

Atwater, 25, pleaded guilty last year to state and federal charges in the case and was sentenced to two life prison terms.

Lovette will not face the death penalty if convicted because he was a minor at the time of the shooting. If he’s convicted, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.