CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — About 5,000 mourners filled The Pit on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus Thursday evening for a candlelight vigil to remember the school's student body president – the victim of a shooting that has sent shockwaves through the UNC community.
Police found her body at the corner of Hillcrest Road and Hillcrest Circle about 5:15 a.m. while responding to reports of gunshots nearby. The UNC senior suffered multiple gunshot wounds, including one to the head, authorities said.
"We're all in a state of shock," UNC Chancellor James Moeser said during an informal afternoon gathering in which a, a solemn, similar-sized crowd of students, faculty and staff flocked to the quad outside Polk Place.
At a makeshift memorial behind the old campus YMCA building, students left flowers on the ground and messages on large boards. Staff from the university's counseling center and Duke University were on hand, and they planned to be available for the remainder of the week and next week.
"We are all hurting. We are all grief-stricken – stunned," Moeser said. "This university needs an enormous group hug. It's OK to cry. It's OK to be filled with grief."
Gov. Mike Easley also ordered all state flags on the campus lowered to half-staff.
“There are few other words that can express the sorrow of such a promising life ended so soon and so violently,” he said in a statement.
Carson, a pre-med major studying political science and biology, was active in leadership and service roles. As a Morehead-Cain scholar, she spent her summers volunteering and working overseas in Ecuador, Egypt and Ghana.
She was also a tutor at Githens Middle School in Durham her junior year and an assistant coach with Girls on the Run in 2005, according to the university.
"Eve Carson personified the Carolina spirit. She did it, perhaps, more profoundly than anyone I've known my whole time here," Moeser said. "She felt the very pulse and heartbeat of this university."
"She was just an incredible person that I think had an effect on a lot of people's live," UNC senior Katie Eagan said. "The way in which she died was obviously a shock. I think we're all just trying to process it right now."
By midday Thursday, Chapel Hill police had located Carson's blue 2005 Toyota Highlander in Chapel Hill, about a mile from where her body was found. Investigators said they believe it had been stolen after the killing.
With no suspects or possible motives disclosed, officers spent Wednesday and part of Thursday following up and searching for leads to try to identify Carson.
Police found no identification with her body, but they said a physical description and a pair of unusual tennis shoes she was wearing helped them find out who she was.
"We're at the very beginning of this investigation," Chapel Hill Police Chief Brian Curran said. "A lot of it, up to this point, was just trying to figure out who the victim was."
Curran urged anyone with information about that might help police to call the police department at 919-968-2760 or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515.
Calling her a person who touched lives not only on campus but also throughout the town, Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy said the town was reeling from Carson's death.
"Her service as student body president, a member of the (UNC) Board of Trustees and (in) other ways only provides a glimpse of the person that Eve was," he said.
"She was happy, vivacious, intelligent, engaged and a presence in our community whose absence leaves a permanent void in our hearts and in our lives.”
"She really brought you into the Carolina family, made you feel like we're all united here," UNC student Gina Mottesi said. "And something like this just impacts you in a way you wouldn't expect it to."