Local News

Defense wants info on tipsters in UNC murder case

Posted December 30, 2009 12:39 p.m. EST
Updated December 30, 2009 5:08 p.m. EST

— Orange County's chief prosecutor does not want to turn over to defense attorneys Crime Stoppers information that led to the arrest of two suspects charged in last year's slaying of UNC-Chapel Hill's former student body president.

During a hearing Wednesday, District Attorney Jim Woodall asked Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour for an order protecting the information, which he argued could identify those that helped lead police to Eve Carson's suspected killers.

Turning over the information, he argued, could also compromise the telephone hotline system, which is supposed to protect tipsters' identities.

According to search warrants in the case, an anonymous caller connected detectives investigating Carson's March 5, 2008, shooting death to a confidential informant who ultimately led them to arrest Demario James Atwater and Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr.

Police found Carson, 22, dead about a half-mile from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill while responding to early-morning reports of gunshots. She had been shot five times, according to an autopsy report.

Woodall said Wednesday that defense attorneys have been allowed to look at the Crime Stoppers information but that he does not want to turn over copies of the information because doing so would compromise a vital crime-fighting tool.

"Crime Stoppers helps law enforcement solve crimes that simply would not otherwise be solved because people are guaranteed anonymity," he said. "By allowing this material simply to be produced to the defense, it will identify many people who gave tips in this case, and it would, I believe, actually hamstring this program."

Defense attorneys argued that the information needs to be turned over because the state cannot pick and choose what it thinks is important.

"They want to authorize a system that allows them to collect information, use the parts that are helpful for the state and bar discovery of the parts that are helpful for the defense," Lovette's attorney, Kevin Bradley, said.

Baddour said he will rule on the matter next week.

According to search warrants, an anonymous caller contacted Crime Stoppers six days after Carson's death, saying that a man known as "Rio" said he and an unknown individual took Carson to the ATM with the plan of obtaining her personal identification number and then killing her.

The caller also connected investigators with the confidential informant, who told them that the suspects forced Carson into the back seat of her Toyota Highlander with Atwater. Lovette drove. Atwater also confided to the informant that Lovette shot Carson multiple times and that he shot her as well, the warrants state.

Both Lovette and Atwater face a number of state charges in the case, including first-degree murder. Atwater also faces federal charges and, if convicted, could be sentenced to death.

Lovette was in court for Wednesday's hearing; Atwater waived his right to attend.