Local News

Motion: UNC murder suspect admitted to Duke slaying

Posted August 3, 2009 7:30 p.m. EDT
Updated August 3, 2009 7:38 p.m. EDT

— The man accused of killing the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's student body president last year made statements implicating himself in the slaying of a Duke University graduate student two months earlier.

That's according to a motion filed Friday on behalf of Stephen Lavance Oates, who is charged in the Jan. 18, 2008, death of Abhijit Mahato. The mechanical engineering student from Tatangar, India, was in his second year at Duke when friends found him shot to death inside his Durham apartment.

The motion, asking for a reduction in Oates' $10 million bond, claims that Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr. – also charged in Mahato's death – made statements, admitting that he and someone named "Phillip" kidnapped Mahato, took him to an ATM to withdraw money and then back to his apartment, where they robbed and killed him.

Lovette is also a suspect in UNC senior Eve Carson's March 5, 2008, death. Chapel Hill police say he and another man kidnapped Carson and forced her to withdraw money from ATMs before shooting her five times in a neighborhood near the UNC campus.

In Oates' defense motion, attorney Mark Edwards, writes that Lovette also admitted to being involved in other robberies and that he shot two men in the legs during separate robberies that coincide with crimes in which Oates is also charged.

Lovette also "denied knowing Mr. Oates and did not indicate that Oates was involved in the Mahato murder," Edwards wrote. "Not surprisingly, Lovette was greatly relieved when the police arrested Mr. Oates since he felt they would stop looking for him."

The motion does not indicate to whom Lovette told the information, only that it was provided to Oates' defense team after a May 11 bond hearing.

The motion also states that Lovette made a second statement that prosecutors used at that bond hearing to argue against lowering Oates' bond. In that statement, according to Edwards, Lovette implied that "Mr. Oates was in fact the true shooter and that Lovette was a mere bystander."

"The new statement shows the truth about what happened. Lovette's conduct both before and following the murder of Abhijit Mahato demonstrate how dangerous and brazen a criminal he is," the motion states.

"There is no credible evidence to tie Stephen Oates to the murder of Abhijit Mahato or to any of the psychopathic crimes committed by Lawrence [sic] Alvin Lovette," it continues.

Mahato's body was found on the floor inside his Anderson Street apartment, just off Duke's campus. An autopsy found he died from a single bullet fired directly at his head.

Police arrested Oates five days after the shooting, following a multi-county, high-speed chase. According to an arrest warrant, Mahato's cell phone helped police link Lovette to the crime when he was arrested on March 13, 2008, in Carson's death.

Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline has also said in previous hearings that police found Mahato's iPod on Lovette and that investigators were not sure which suspect shot Mahato.