Local News

More Homicide Arrests Point to Problems With Probation System

Posted April 1, 2008 1:51 p.m. EDT
Updated April 1, 2008 7:25 p.m. EDT

— Two more men accused of homicides in Durham in recent months were on probation for misdemeanor crimes when they were arrested.

It's more evidence of problems with the state's probation system, which has come under scrutiny following the arrests last month of two men charged in the shooting death of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student Eve Carson.

Durham leaders say the problem is statewide.

"I'm devastated, and everyone should be," Durham City Councilman Eugene Brown said. "I don't know how much more evidence we need to understand the harsh reality of the fact that this system is not working."

Toriko Mercer, 23, who is charged with murder in the March 28 death of David Anthony Taborn, was on probation for two misdemeanor larceny convictions.

Gary Brady, 46, was arrested Jan. 18 in the Nov. 23 shooting death of Derrick Burch. At the time, his probation was in the process of being revoked for alleged violations.

Both men were on "community-level" probation, which is the lowest level of probation, Department of Correction spokesman Keith Acree said.

"It concerns us to see numerous incidences of that in the same place," he said. "That's more than we'd like to see. (We're) trying to determine what we can about how they were handled and do what we need to do to correct any situations we find there."

Last month, the DOC's director of the Division of Community Corrections ordered an internal investigation into the probation cases of two men charged in Carson's March 5 shooting death. Director Robert Guy is expected to release the results of that probe Wednesday.

Demario James Atwater, 21, was in court in Raleigh two days before Carson's death for a probation violation hearing, but it was rescheduled because of a clerical error. It was one of several mistakes WRAL found last month in Atwater's case.

Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 17, who is charged in Carson's death and the Jan. 18 shooting death of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato, was released from jail on probation Jan. 16.

DOC officials said last week that his probation officer made telephone contact with Lovette but never saw him outside of court during the six-week period between Mahato's and Carson's deaths.