Local News

Suspect Indicted in Duke Grad Student's Death

Posted March 17, 2008 9:58 a.m. EDT
Updated March 19, 2008 11:31 a.m. EDT

— A grand jury on Monday indicted Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr. on one count of murder and one count of robbery with a dangerous weapon in connection with the Jan. 18 slaying of a Duke University graduate student.

An autopsy report released last week said Abhijit Mahato, 29, was shot at point-blank range in the forehead as a pillow was held tightly against his face. His body was found in his apartment a few blocks off campus.

Lovette, 17, is the second suspect charged in the slaying. He was arrested Thursday in connection with the shooting death of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill senior and Student Body President Eve Carson, 22.

Durham County Assistant District Attorney Tracey Cline said in court last week a cell phone and an iPod found on Lovette when he was detained in Carson's death linked him to Mahato's.

Lovette was on probation at the time for a pair of crimes he committed in November. He received a two-year suspended sentence for misdemeanor larceny and breaking and entering and was placed on probation Jan. 16.

Prosecutors believe he and Stephen Lavance Oates Jr., 19, of Durham, killed Mahato two days later. Oates was indicted on a murder charge last month in the case.

Court records also show that in the six weeks from the time Mahato was killed until Carson's slaying in Chapel Hill, Lovette was arrested at least two times in Durham and charged with nine different crimes, including burglary, car theft, breaking and entering, and resisting arrest.

He was released on bond after each of those arrests, and court hearings were pending for later this month.

Robert L. Guy, director of the Department of Correction's Division of Community Corrections, said that during that six-week period, a probation officer made telephone contact with Lovette but never saw him outside of court.

Guy has ordered an internal investigation to see if that probation officer followed departmental procedure.

"In the first 30 days, we have certain things we're supposed to complete," Guy said. "That's what the investigation team is looking into. What did we do?"

Guy has also launched an investigation to determine how oversights could have been detected in the probation case of Demario James Atwater, 21, who is also charged in Carson's death.

Atwater was convicted in 2005 of felony breaking and entering and larceny and was sentenced to three years' probation. He was convicted of a probation violation in June 2007, but not arrested until Feb. 20.

A March 3 court appearance – two days before Carson's death – was rescheduled to later in the month because of clerical errors in Wake County court.

Carson was shot March 5.

Lovette is now in jail under a $3 million bond in Mahato's death and is being held without bond in Carson's death. Atwater is also being held without bond.