GREENSBORO, N.C. — A federal grand jury has indicted one of two suspects in the slaying of UNC-Chapel Hill's former student body president.
Demario James Atwater, 22, was indicted Monday
on a charge of carjacking resulting in death, which could allow federal authorities to seek a death sentence.
Chapel Hill police have charged Atwater, and Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 17, with first-degree murder and kidnapping in connection with the March 5 shooting death of Eve Marie Carson, 22, of Athens, Ga.
Police investigators believe Atwater and Lovette kidnapped Carson and forced her to withdraw $1,400 from ATMs before shooting her five times, including once in the head with a sawed-off shotgun.
Federal authorities began looking at the case in April to determine whether to file federal carjacking charges, which can carry the death sentence if prosecutors can prove the crime was committed during a homicide.
U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey must approve seeking a death sentence in the federal case. Prosecutors said Monday he has yet to do so.
Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall has said he will seek the death penalty against Atwater, but juries there have rarely sentenced defendants to death row.
Lovette is ineligible for the death penalty under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling because he is under age 18 at the time of the crime of which he is accused.
Death penalty cases are rare in federal cases, according to former federal prosecutor Dan Boyce.
Since 1977, there have been three cases where federal prisoners have been executed, including Timothy McVeigh for his role in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.