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Mahato's father: 'Please take care of the other students'

In the year since the 29-year-old graduate student was slain in a robbery, Duke University officials say they've tried to honor his memory and his family's wishes by increasing student safety.

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DURHAM, N.C. — A year and a day after the murder of a Duke University graduate student from India, safety – especially that of students from other countries – has become a top concern, university officials said.

On Jan. 18, 2008, three friends found the body of Abhijit Mahato, 29, in his off-campus apartment. His face was in a pillow, and he had died from a single gunshot wound.

Since then, university officials say they have worked to fulfill the one request made by Mahato's father, who lives in the engineering doctoral student's hometown of Tatangar, India.

"The first thing the father said to us was, 'Please take care of the other students,'" Marianne Hassan, associate dean of new initiatives at the Pratt School of Engineering, said.

Police consider Mahato's slaying a random crime – with robbery being the motive. Two men are charged in his death, Stephen Lavance Oates, 20, and Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 18.

Duke University officials say new safety initiatives are in place and under way.

"Access to and from campus and on and off campus is pretty permeable," university spokesman Michael Schoenfeld said. "We do have to take extra care and encourage students to take extra care."

Friends believe Mahato, who was pursuing a doctorate in engineering, worked late in a lab before heading home from Duke's campus the night he died.

The university has launched crime-prevention workshops, started a new bus route to off-campus apartments and gotten rental zip cars to help students get around.

Those efforts, Hassan said, are a way to honor the wish of the slain student's father.

"I think Abhijit's memory will be with us for a long time," she said.


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