Local News

UNC Murder Suspect Also Charged in Duke Grad Student's Death

Posted March 13, 2008 8:56 a.m. EDT
Updated March 19, 2008 11:19 a.m. EDT

— A teenager detained early Thursday in the death of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student leader Eve Carson now faces charges in connection with the death of a Duke University graduate student.

Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 17, of 1213 Shepherd St., was arrested was charged with first-degree murder in the Jan. 18 shooting death of Abhijit Mahato hours after his arrest in the Carson case.

Mahato, 29, a doctoral student, was found shot to death inside his apartment a few blocks from Duke's campus.

Lovette and another Durham man, Demario James Atwater, 21, are each charged with first-degree murder in Carson's March 5 shooting death.

Police are also looking at whether Atwater was involved in Mahato's death.

"(It's) hard for me to believe" these were the only crimes they were involved with, Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said Thursday.
Lopez said, however, he did not think the crimes are gang-related and that they appeared to be random.

The arrests of both men come a week after Chapel Hill police found Carson's body near the UNC campus. A tip line and surveillance photos released since then were responsible for their captures, authorities said.

"(It proves that) snitching works," Lopez said.

Acting on a tip through the Durham County Sheriff's Office, members of the Durham Police Department Selective Enforcement Unit surrounded a house on Cook Road at about 4:15 a.m. Thursday.

Negotiators worked for more nearly two hours before he surrendered peacefully. Watch authorities detain Lovette.

The SEU arrested Atwater early Wednesday morning at a house on Rosedale Avenue in Durham. Watch video of Atwater’s bail arraignment.

Both men are in jail without bond. Lovette could make his first court appearance on Friday in connection with Carson's death, Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said.

Chapel Hill Police Chief Brian Curran said Thursday he did not anticipate any more arrests in that case but said, "the hard stuff (in the case) is still ahead."

More Arrests Possible in Mahato's Death

Police would not say how they were able to link Lovette to Mahato's death, saying only he "did not confess" to it and that it was the result of good police work.

According to the arrest warrant, Lovette allegedly stole a cellular phone, wallet and an iPod – with a combined value of about $300 – before Mahato was shot to death inside his apartment at 1600 Anderson St.

"We're happy that someone's been caught. Hopefully, no one else is going to have to die for money or whatever it is he was after," Ed Triplett, a neighbor of Mahato, said. "But it's a shame someone else did have to die, that there wasn't enough evidence for whatever reason to solve the case the first time around."

Several days after the shooting, Durham police arrested Stephen Oates, 19, of Anthony Drive, and three other men with murder after a chase that spanned two counties. Oates has since been charged in connection with more than a dozen armed robberies.

A source tells WRAL that police are still looking to make another arrest in Mahato's death.

Duke Welcomes News

“We welcome the news that the Durham and Chapel Hill police departments have in the murder of Eve Carson arrested a second suspect, someone who also has been charged in the murder of our graduate student Abhijit Mahato several weeks ago," John Burness, Duke's senior vice president for public affairs, said in a written statement Thursday.

"Our campus community deeply mourns the tragic deaths of these two outstanding young people, and our thoughts are with their families today.”

Lovette was scheduled to appear in a Durham court Friday to face the murder charge in the Mahato case and a number of other Durham police charges – including misdemeanor larceny, communicating threats, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and common law robber.

According to arrest warrants, Lovette allegedly stole five pairs of Air Jordan shoes valued at $570 from someone in Durham and threatened to kill the victim's family if he called police. He also encouraged a 14-year-old to help him steal the shoes, police said in the warrant.