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Death Penalty to be Sought in N.C. Student Slaying


Prosecutors said Monday they plan to seek the death penalty against a man charged in the kidnapping and fatal shooting of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student body president Eve Carson.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said during a court hearing that he plans to seek the execution of Demario James Atwater, 22, even though jurors in Orange County haven’t returned a death sentence since North Carolina resumed executions in 1984.

“This is the toughest decision any prosecutor has to make,” Woodall said, adding that he believed Carson’s family supported his decision based on several conversations with her parents.

Atwater and Laurence Alvin Lovette, 17, are charged with first-degree murder in the death of Carson, 22, of Athens, Ga. Atwater also is charged with first-degree kidnapping, felonious larceny, armed robbery and felonious possession of stolen goods.

The death penalty can’t be sought against Lovette because of his age.

Woodall revealed new details in the case Monday, telling Superior Court Judge Thomas H. Lock that prosecutors believe Atwater shot Carson in the head with a 12-gauge shotgun.

“He (Atwater) had been seen with that weapon prior to this crime,” Woodall told the judge.

Woodall alleged that Atwater and Lovette kidnapped Carson from outside her home just before 4 a.m. on March 5 after peeking through her window as she worked on her computer. They stole her sport utility vehicle and took her to several ATMs, eventually withdrawing $1,400.

Carson’s body was found later that morning in the middle of a residential street near campus. She had been shot five times.

Woodall said the crimes were especially heinous, and Lock agreed to hear the case as a capital murder.

Woodall said Carson was shot four times with a .25-caliber handgun, which police believe was used by Lovette. That gun and the shotgun used by Atwater were damaged, as if someone tried to dismantle both weapons, Woodall said. Ballistics experts repaired both weapons.

Lovette also is charged in the death of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato, who was found dead Jan. 18 in his apartment near the university’s campus in Durham, about a 20-minute drive from Chapel Hill. Mahato had been shot once in the forehead.

Stephen Oates, 19, of Durham, also is charged with murder in Mahato’s death. Lovette wasn’t charged until after his arrest in Carson’s death.

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