In the early hours of March 5th, 2008, several frantic 911 callers reported five consecutive gunshots in a wooded neighborhood one mile from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
Police were quickly dispatched to the scene and the arriving officers found the makings of an unspeakable tragedy. Deceased and facedown in a small patch of grass was the recipient of all five shots that callers had reported.
The victim was 22-year-old Eve Marie Carson from Athens, GA. She was a UNC student.
Hitting The Books
Eve’s friends had begged her to go with them on a mini out-of-town vacation, but she had refused. Sure, Eve wanted to go with her friends, but her school work always came first, and she knew sacrifices must be made to remain at the top of her classes.
Bummed, but understanding, Eve’s friends left without her at around 1:30am.
This will be the last time they would ever see their friend again.
The Beauty In All Things
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 she was a part of a four-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 Eve also volunteered locally, such as being a science teacher at the Chapel Hill Elementary School.
Maxine Easom, the Clarke Central Highschool principal where Eve Carson graduated valedictorian, tells the Raleigh News and Observer:
“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.”
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 of low quality. However, once they enhanced the image, detectives could begin trying to identify the driver.
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 on Wednesday, March 12, 2008, as he was leaving his home. Atwater’s accomplice, Lawrence Lovett Jr, was also taken into custody.
A Flawed System
Both Atwater and Lovette have lengthy rap sheets and were both serving probation for various crimes. In 2005, Demario Atwater was convicted of breaking and entering. In 2007, he was caught in possession of a firearm.
Atwater was on probation since twenty-one, but never knew it, because his parole officer hadn’t contacted him in over a year. To make matters worse, Atwater had been shuffled around ten different parole officers since his first arrest.
Laurence Lovette from Durham was also on probation, although he didn’t know it because, like Atwater, his parole officer also never contacted him. Lovette was sixteen, albeit ten days before his seventeenth birthday, when he was arrested for misdemeanor larceny and breaking and entering. A judge gave Lovette a suspended sentence for these misdemeanors.
Since the Murder of Eve Carson, there has been a public outrage about why both killers were free from jail for their earlier crimes. Many believe if the system would have been working as it should, Carson would still be living.
Asked To Pray With Her Captors
Eve Carson’s last moments being held hostage by both killers had to be horrifying 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. Detectives saw that Carson opened an email on her computer at 3:35 am and Lovette’s photo was captured at the ATM in her car only twenty minutes later, with Carson in the backseat.
At 5:55am she was shot five times. The final bullet was in the head using a sawed-off shotgun fired from 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 discarded both weapons after attempting to destroy them, but law enforcement recovered them.
An autopsy report showed no signs of Carson being sexually assaulted.
“You know, people make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. I’m not the monster that ya’ll made me out to be,” Lovette said prior to Judge Allen Baddour’s sentencing on Monday. “I know that this has been a traumatic ordeal for everybody involved. For that, I send my condolences to everybody who’s been affected by it. If it means anything to anybody, it means something to me.”
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, and avoided death by lethal injection by pleading guilty, and working with the State.