In the early hours of March 5th, 2008, witnesses heard 5 gunshots ring out in a wooded neighborhood one mile from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill campus. The victim of this hideous execution was 22-year-old Eve Marie Carson from Athens, GA and a current student at UNC.
Before her murder, Carson attended the Tar Heel’s basketball game against Florida State. Her roommates had invited her to go out on the town, but she refused, citing that she had a lot of studying to do, so they took off without her at approx. 1:30am that morning. This will be the last time they ever see Eve Carson again.
Carson wasn’t just an outstanding student at UNC, she was also the student body president, a prestigious Morehead-Cain scholar and a North Carolina Fellow. Sam Hicks, a guidance counselor at Clarke Central High School where she graduated in 2004, remembers Carson, “She was brilliantly intelligent. She was a beautiful young lady. She was fiercely competitive on the soccer field.” Carson was on track as a pre-med student, majoring in political science and biology and a part of a 4 year leadership development program for undergraduates. Any free time she had was volunteering not just the overseas trips that took her to Ecuador, Egypt, and Ghana, but also such as being a science teacher at Chapel Hill Elementary School. Maxine Easom, the Clarke Central Highschool principal where Eve Carson graduated valedictorian, tells the Raleigh News and Observer that, “Eve was just the most wonderful young woman you would ever want to know. She was brilliant. She was absolutely beautiful. Everything she did was aimed at helping other people. It’s one of the greatest tragedies I’ve ever known. Eve was one of the young women who could change the world.”
The shots fired alerted police, and they found Carson’s body at 5:15am early Wednesday morning. A tipster led police to Carson’s abandoned blue 2005 Toyota Highlander after they identified it on Franklin Street. Carson was lifeless by the time police reached her. She was wearing a dark blue t-shirt, grey sweatpants, and white running shoes. Believing robbery was a possible and likely motive, police check CCTV at local ATMs until they spot Carson’s car. The original photo was black and white and low quality. However, once they enhanced the image, you can tell that there is someone in the back of the car. Chapel Hill Police Chief Brian Curran stated, “We believe there may have been a second person in the vehicle.”
Police arrested 22-year-old Demario James Atwater at 5 am Wednesday, March 12, 2008 as he was under surveillance leaving his home. Police also arrested Atwater’s accomplice in the murder of 17-year-old Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr. who also identified as the driver in the ATM photos. Both Atwater and Lovette have lengthy rap sheets and were both serving probation for various crimes. In 2005, they convicted Demario Atwater of breaking and entering and possession of a firearm in 2007. Atwater, on probation since 21 never knew it because his parole officer hasn’t contacted him in a year and since starting probation and shuffled around between 10 separate parole officers. Laurence Lovette from Durham was on probation, although he didn’t know it because his parole officer never contacted him, for misdemeanor larceny and breaking and entering. Lovette was 16, albeit 10 days before his 17th birthday when he committed those crimes. They gave Lovette a suspended sentence for these misdemeanors. Since the Murder of Eve Carson there has been a public outrage on why both killers were free from jail from their earlier crimes. Many believe if the system would have been working as it should, Carson would still be living.
Eve Carson’s last moments being held hostage by both killers had to be horryfying and unimaginable. Walking along East Rosemary Street around 3:30am on March 5, both Atwater and Lovette were wandering and searching for someone to mug. This is when the two spotted a light on in Carson’s apartment. This makes sense because Carson stayed home that night so she could spend the evening studying. Silhouetted in her room with her blinds open, Carson made an accessible target for her killers. The abduction happened as detectives know that Carson opened an email on her account at 3:35 am and Lovette’s photo was captured at the ATM in her car only 20 minutes later. At 5:55am she would be dead, shot 5 times, once in the head with a sawed-off shotgun by Demario Atwater. Prosecution used testimony from 20-year-old Jayson McNeil, an associate of Lovette’s who received a frantic call from Lovette asking for a place to hide the day after the Atwater arrest. McNeil testified as a part of a plea deal for his ongoing federal drug case. “[Lovette] said the whole time that Eve Carson was in the back seat that she was pleading for her life and explained that they didn’t have to do what they were doing.” The crime duo forced the frightened girl into her own car before making her withdrawal $1,400 from various ATMs. “Before [Lovette] even shot her…she was saying, ‘Let’s pray,’” a CBS affiliate WRAL reports. “She wanted them to pray together,” McNeil said in court. The killers then shot Carson four times, execution-style, with a handgun and once in the head with a sawed-off shotgun. The killers discarded both weapons after attempting to destroy them, but law enforcement recovered them. Atwater later admitted to firing the fatal shot with the shot gun. The District Attorney Jim Woodall said, “He had been seen with that weapon prior to this crime, and he has been seen with that weapon after the crime.” The autopsy report showed no signs of Carson being sexually assaulted.
In news related to Eve Carson, but not her murder, a reporter from the News and Observer traveling in India in 2012 sees a shocking image on a local billboard. Jubeerich Consultancy, a consultant agency in India offering abroad opportunities and job placement, was using a photo of Eve Carson for their marketing campaigns. The company quickly removed the billboard and Justy Mathews, a director at Jubeerich wrote of his “deep agony, pain and hearty condolence and my unconditional apologies from the bottom of my heart.” Mathews apologized for the mistake, claiming that he not the company knew the murder that took place in 2008.
In another shocking case development, 17-year-old Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr. also faced charges for a previous murder that happened 3 months prior to a student at Duke University. Abhijit Mahato, a graduate student pursuing his Ph.D. at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and found dead by several friends inside his apartment on the night of January 18, 2008. Mahato was a victim of opportunistic robbery, carried out by Laurence Lovette. Mahato came from Tatanager India. but raised in Kolkata. An equally brilliant intellect as Carson, Mahato earned a Mechanical Engineering degree from Jadavpur University, his masters from IIT in Kanpur (after which he worked for GE in Bangalore, India, and was pursuing his Ph.D. at Duke for Computational Mechanics. Mahato was brilliant, popular, and according to several friends “always wore a smile.” Santanu Ghosh, a friend and advocate for justice for Mahato, said. “He was happy and living his life to the fullest, working hard to earn his Ph.D., when a senseless piece of crime robbed him of the most precious thing he had – his life. His parents lost their only son, his sister lost her brother, we lost a friend, and the world lost a wonderful person.”
As for the prosecution, their case rested on a single witness, Shanita Love, who only came forward after investigators arrested the wrong suspect Stephen Oates in the Mahato murder. Love presented first account testimony claiming that she witnessed Lovette and his 14-year-old younger brother Philip Mabrey splitting up the bounty after the murder. She stated that Lovette told her that him and Mabrey robbed and killed Abhiji Mahato on Anderson street on January 18, 2008 (3 months before the Eve Carson murder). They never tried Philip Mabrey was never in court since his claims were that he was outside in the parking lot of the Anderson Apartments when he heard the gunshot. The jury acquitted Lovette for the murder of Abhiji Mahato on July 30th, 2014.
As for the Eve Carson murders, both Demario Atwater and Laurence Lovette are serving life sentences for their part in the murder. Atwater pleaded guilty to felonies including state murder charges, weapon charges, and kidnapping. Atwater avoided death by lethal injection by pleading guilty and working with the State. Since the Eve Carson murder, they have awarded several scholarships in honor of her name.
The Charlotte Observer March 7 & 23, 2008 | July 26, 2014 |