Local News

Gang Affiliation Debated in Slaying of UNC Student

Posted March 11, 2008 11:24 p.m. EDT
Updated March 12, 2008 7:52 a.m. EDT

— As Chapel Hill police follow up leads from surveillance photos in the slaying of UNC-Chapel Hill Student Body President Eve Carson, debate over whether the photographed suspect is gang-affiliated lingers.

The photos show the only customer in a convenience store at the time an attempt was made to use Carson’s debit card at an automated-teller machine, Chapel Hill Police Chief Brian J. Curran said.

The man in the photo also appears to be the same person who was driving a sport-utility vehicle in bank ATM surveillance photos, Curran said.

The SUV driver was wearing what is thought to be a ball cap with a vintage Houston Astros logo. Curran said Monday, the hat could be a sign the suspect is a gang member.

"This certainly is one possible scenario," Curran said, but he added, "just talking about it would be speculation."

Hunter Glass, a former detective with the Fayetteville Police Department, is considered to be a "gang expert" and has looked closely at the Carson suspect photos.

"I believe that it's a very strong possibility, given the young man's age and the picture ... that he is associated with a gang,” he said.

The Houston Astros logo is sometimes associated with a particular gang, mainly to disrespect the symbol of another gang," Glass said.

"It's disrespect to that five-point star, that 'H' on top of it,” Glass said.

Glass said the hat turned slightly to one side could also indicate a gang affiliation, "which in the gang world is representing one side or another."

Carson’s body was discovered early March 5 on Hillcrest Circle, about a half-mile from campus.

Glass said that even if the suspect is in gang, it is unlikely Carson's death was gang-related.

"This case, I firmly believe is a random act of violence, by some very violent young men,” he said.

Investigators have been talking to gang and community service units at police agencies around the region. Chapel Hill police have consulted with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, State Bureau of Investigation and local law-enforcement agencies.

Curran said that Carson's killer is thought to have had access to her SUV, which was found a day after her death about a mile from the crime scene. Police would like to hear from anyone who saw a blue, 2005 Toyota Highlander on March 5 or 6. The SUV's Georgia license plate is AIV-6690.

Investigators still have no motive in the shooting death of the 22-year-old Athens, Ga., native and urged anyone with information that could help the investigation to call police at 919-968-2760 or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515. Callers can remain anonymous.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said he hoped the $25,000 reward offered by the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees would encourage someone to come forward with information.