Local News

UNC Murder Suspect in Court on Probation Violation

Posted March 31, 2008 6:15 a.m. EDT
Updated March 31, 2008 1:55 p.m. EDT

— One of the two men accused of killing UNC Student Body President Eve Carson waived his probable cause hearing in connection with a probation violation that ultimately prompted state correction officials to order an internal investigation into the matter.

Six deputies flanked Demario James Atwater, 21, of Durham, as he entered a Wake County courtroom Monday. The violation stems from a February 2005 felony breaking-and-entering conviction.

Superior Court Judge Carl Fox continued the case until May 1 and assigned Raleigh attorney Rudy Renfer, who sometimes handles cases for the public defender's officer, to represent Atwater.

Atwater had been in court two days before Carson's March 5 shooting death, but the hearing was postponed following a paperwork mix-up.

It was one of several problems that contributed to Atwater being overlooked by the state's probation system.

"This guy should have been handled by us," said Robert L. Guy, director of the Department of Correction's Division of Community Corrections.

Atwater's former probation officer has been placed on desk duty and a new office has been assigned to the case. Guy has also ordered an internal investigation into how the case was handled.

Results from that probe could be available sometime this week.

In February 2005, a judge sentenced Atwater to three years' probation, including nine months of intensive probation that required him to be in contact with a probation officer five times a week, at least once in person.

He pleaded guilty to felony possession of a firearm in Granville County in June 2007, but arrest warrants weren't issued for him in Wake County until November 2007. His probation officer arrested him on Feb. 20, 2008, and he was released on a $10,000 secured bond.

He was in court March 3, but was allowed to leave because his court file had been sent to the wrong courtroom.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby has said the investigation is necessary, although it is impossible to say whether earlier intervention could have prevented Carson's death or any of Atwater's other alleged acts.

"I don't know if it would have prevented his criminal activity or not, but someone might have detected it sooner," Willoughby said.