Guilty Plea in Death of UNC Student President

Mike Baker, Google News, April 19, 2010

One of the men accused in the killing of a student body president at University of North Carolina’s flagship campus pleaded guilty to federal crimes Monday, avoiding a death penalty case prosecutors were pursuing.

Demario Atwater pleaded guilty to several charges, including carjacking resulting in death and kidnapping. Prosecutors agreed to drop their plan to pursue the death penalty and Atwater agreed that he will face a life sentence.

Eve Carson, 22, of Athens, Ga., was found shot to death in the middle of a Chapel Hill street in March 2008. She had been shot five times, including once in the head with a 12-gauge shotgun.

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Atwater is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 23, and he still faces charges in state court along with Laurence Lovette, who was only 17 at the time of the killing and is ineligible for the death penalty.

Authorities believe Atwater and Lovette kidnapped Carson from outside her Chapel Hill home just before 4 a.m., stole her sport utility vehicle and took her to several ATMs, eventually withdrawing $1,400.

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U.S. attorney Anna Mills Wagoner said Monday that the plea avoids the uncertainty and pain of a drawn-out trial and endless appeals.

“A life sentence in the federal criminal justice system means just that: life without the possibility of parole or early release,” Wagoner said in a statement.

Federal executions are rare. {snip} Executions are even more rare in Orange County, which hasn’t returned a death sentence in about 70 years.

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