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Suspect in Duke student's death sees bond reduced again

An attorney for Stephen Lavance Oates says he had nothing to do with the Jan. 18, 2008, death of Abhijit Mahato, then a Duke University grad student.

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DURHAM, N.C. — Judge Orlando Hudson reduced the bond Monday for a man linked to the murder of a Duke University graduate student in 2008.

Stephen Lavance Oates is charged with first-degree murder for the Jan. 18, 2008, death of Abhijit Mahato. Durham police arrested Oates five days after Mahato was found dead inside his apartment near Duke.

He was being held on $1.2 million bond until his trial. On Monday, Hudson reduced that amount to $400,000 after hearing arguments from Oates' attorney. It was the second bond reduction in the case. Oates was originally held on $10 million bond.

It was the latest attempt by defense attorney Mark Edwards to point the finger away from this client. He believes two other men linked to the death of UNC student body president Eve Carson in March 2008 killed Mahato.

Demario James Atwater pleaded guilty in federal court in September to Carson's death and is serving a life sentence. Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr. is also charged with the crime. He has yet to be tried.

Assistant District Attorney Tracey Cline has said Mahato's cell phone was used the night of his death to call several of Lovette's friends. Ballistic evidence links Oates to the crime, Cline has said.

The nine millimeter gun used to kill Mahato matched one used in two robberies where victims were shot in the legs. Those victims identified Oates as the shooter. 

"The SBI lab was able to determine that all three shell casings had in fact been fired from the same weapon," Cline said.

Edwards said his client had used a BB gun in some robberies, but never a nine millimeter.

He was emphatic Monday in his conviction that his client had nothing to do with Mahato's death.

”It is our belief there is no evidence that could tie Mr. Oates to Mr. Lovette," he said. "They found no items that connected him in any way to Mr. Mahato’s killing."

"I fully expect that no jury will convict Mr. Oates of any of these offenses.”

Edwards argues and Cline admits that Lovette told a witness he killed Mahato with someone named Phillip.

Oates' trial is scheduled to begin sometime this summer.


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