Local News

Federal agency will review state probation offices

Posted April 29, 2008 1:57 p.m. EDT

— A federal agency has agreed to help North Carolina's Division of Community Corrections review training and practices of probation offices in the state's urban areas, Department of Correction spokesman Keith Acree said Tuesday.

The National Institute of Corrections will assemble a team of up to four advisers to look at case management, staffing levels, employee training and other areas of concern.

The DOC requested assistance earlier this month following an internal investigation into how the cases of two offenders charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill senior Eve Carson.

Both suspects – Demario James Atwater, 21, and Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 17, both of Durham – were on probation at the time of Carson's death on March 5.

Lovette is also charged with first-degree murder in the January shooting death of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato.

The internal probe found a number of failures and oversights in how the two cases were handled.

As many as 10 staff touched Atwater's case file and did not address red flags, the investigation found. Probation officers also lost contact with him for more than a year.

Lovette's probation officer was handling 127 cases although she had not completed basic training and never met with him. She had also been on duty although she was charged with driving while impaired.

Since the investigation's findings earlier this month, several employees have resigned from the Durham County probation office and at least three members of senior management at the Wake County office have been reassigned.

Acree has said further disciplinary action is likely to follow, although he isn't sure what.

Robert Guy, director of the Division of Community Corrections, has said that even if the agency had efficiently followed its own procedures, both defendants could have been free from custody when the students were killed.

"There's no guarantee that they would have not been on the street," he said.