Local News

Suspect Charged, Another Sought in UNC Student's Slaying

Posted March 12, 2008 6:43 a.m. EDT
Updated March 19, 2008 11:18 a.m. EDT

— Police on Wednesday arrested a Durham man in connection with the shooting death of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's student body president, and they pursued leads on a second suspect.

Heavily armed members of the Durham Police Department's Selective Enforcement Team took Demario James Atwater, 21, of 414-B Macon St., into custody at about 5 a.m. during a raid at a house on Rosedale Avenue.

He spent most of the day being questioned at the Chapel Hill Police Department, and they charged him Wednesday afternoon with one count of first-degree murder in the March 5 slaying of 22-year-old Eve Carson.

"This is still an active and ongoing investigation," Chapel Hill Police Chief Brian J. Curran said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon as he announced the arrest but declined to comment on specific details about the killing.

Meanwhile, police searched for 17-year-old Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr. and raided a house near downtown Durham in an effort of find him.

Lovette, also wanted on a first-degree murder charge in Carson's death, is about 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs about 150 pounds, police said.

They warned that Lovette could be armed and dangerous and urged anyone with any information about his whereabouts to call 911 or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515.

Who Are the Suspects?

Curran said both Atwater and Lovette are the men caught on two sets of surveillance photos made public in the days following Carson’s death. Investigators received hundreds of calls because of their release, he said.

Lovette was identified as the driver of a vehicle in ATM surveillance photos made available Saturday. Police are also investigating whether he was in Carson's blue Toyota Highlander at the time.

Two surveillance photos from a convenience store show a man, whom police said was Atwater, inside at the time an attempt was made to use Carson’s debit card at an ATM in that store.

Atwater has a criminal record dating to 2004, including charges of robbery, drug possession and resisting arrest. He was due in court earlier this month on a breaking-and-entering charge.

In 2006, he was sentenced to 24 months' probation for possession of a firearm as a felon.
Court records also show Lovette has a criminal background, with charges of breaking and entering and larceny. He is on probation for larceny and is due in Durham court this month on charges of first-degree burglary, felony larceny of a motor vehicle and felony larceny after breaking and entering.

Search Intensifies for Lovette in Durham

The search for Lovette intensified in Durham late Wednesday, with police searching a Durham park near the historic Hill House on Duke Street. Investigators received a tip he might have been hiding in an old boiler room in the basement of a former structure.

Wednesday afternoon, police surround a house near the intersection of Shepherd and Proctor streets — a few blocks from where police captured Atwater — for nearly two hours.

That home is owned by Melissa Lovette, who neighbors said is likely Lawrence Lovette’s grandmother.

Officers removed children from a day-care operation inside and monitored the house for more than two hours before throwing concussion grenades inside and searching the building.

SET officers left a few minutes later, and Lovette never emerged. State Bureau of Investigation agents then moved in to collect evidence.

The afternoon drama included the evacuation of surrounding homes and the dismissal of students from Morehead Montessori School across the street. Parents were called to pick up their children from the school’s gymnasium, which is on the far side of the building from the police activity.

The police action stunned neighbors.

“Ms. Lovette is such a sweet neighbor, a sweet lady,” Jon Fish said. “We’ve seen Lawrence out shooting baskets hundreds of times.”

'Cloud of Grief' Lingers

News of an arrest spread through Chapel Hill and a relatively quiet UNC campus, where students are on spring break.

"I think that's great. I just hope they made the right arrest," UNC student Lauren Waldron said. "And I hope this whole thing can be put to rest."

Atwater's arrest came exactly one week after Chapel Hill police found Carson's body before dawn in a residential area a half-mile from the campus. The senior biology and political science major had been shot at least once in the right temple, according to a police report

"Hopefully, they have the right person. Yes, I'm glad," UNC employee Candi Day said. "If they do have the right one, I'm so glad."

Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy thanked investigators for their work on the case and reminded everyone that a "cloud of grief" lingers.

"As encouraging as the developments today are, we are still a community in grief," he said. "We have come together during this difficult time to comfort each other and to help heal our community. But we also still must offer comfort to a family in mourning."

UNC Chancellor James Moser expressed similar sentiments in a written statement.

"Our interests are in seeing justice served and helping our community during this difficult time," he said. "We are thankful for all of the expressions of support pouring in for the Carolina family and our local community in these past few days. Those kind thoughts and prayers for Eve Carson's family and our community have made a difference."