Posted on December 19, 2011

At Lovette’s Trial, a Tale of Two Worlds

Anne Blythe, News Observer, December 18, 2011

They were close in age: Eve Carson and her circle of friends and the two accused in her violent death.

No more than 10 miles separated them geographically. But they were worlds apart.

For the past week and a half, as Laurence Alvin Lovette, 21, has stood trial, accused of Carson’s murder, he has listened as witnesses filled in pictures of his world and Carson’s, and how prosecutors say those worlds collided at random in the early hours of March 5, 2008.

The impact ended Carson’s life, brought another suspect life in prison and has left Lovette’s future suspended in an Orange County courtroom. The jury is expected to begin its deliberations in the coming week.

Prosecutors contend that Lovette had an accomplice, DeMario Atwater, a 25-year-old who pleaded guilty last year and is serving a life sentence in federal prison. Both men lived in Durham. They were high school dropouts who, according to testimony, circulated among drug dealers and armed robbers.

Carson, 22, then a Universiy of North Carolina at Chapel Hill senior from Athens, Ga., was the 2008 student body president. She was industrious, well-traveled and planning a big future.


Lovette and his friends, according to prosecutors and the testimony of acquaintances, cared little about school. Atwater, by many accounts, was a marijuana dealer with a big clientele in northern Durham.

Lovette, only 17 at the time of his arrest, aimed to rob people, Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall contends. Lovette also planned to shoot those he robbed, Woodall added, to prevent being identified. Lovette is also accused of first-degree murder in the slaying of Abhijit Mahato, a Duke graduate student who was found shot to death in his off-campus apartment in January 2008.


When Lovette was arrested on charges of kidnapping, robbery and murder, he was living with his mother, Melissa Lovette, on Shepherd Street in Durham. She has attended every day of the trial. When he left the courtroom at the end of each day’s proceedings, Lovette waved to her and sometimes blew a kiss before being ushered back to jail.

Melissa Lovette ran a small day care business in the basement of their home–midway between Duke University and N.C. Central University, where her husband and Lovette’s father had worked.

After his father died in 2003, Lovette, who was adopted by his parents, grew erratic and dangerous, family friends said. He was incarcerated in youth detention centers for breaking into homes, grabbing purses and car keys.

In March 2008, Lovette was supposed to be under the supervision of the state’s probation system, but state Department of Correction records show there was scant to no oversight of the troubled teen. Those same records show the probation system also lost track of Atwater.

Atwater, who grew up in Wake County and Durham, had just moved with his girlfriend and her three small children into his mother’s apartment on South Roxboro Street in Durham shortly before Carson’s death. {snip}

Lovette and one of Atwater’s younger brothers ran in the same circles.


Ten miles down the road, Carson’s friends also spoke of jobs and school, the UNC campus where nearly 25,000 students of similar ages prepared for their futures.

In a college town with a population of about 57,000, property crimes are common, but there are few shootings and homicides.

Carson and her friends were often out at all hours. Sometimes it was to socialize; other times they were cramming for exams or dashing off papers.

On the last day of her life, Carson was busy.

Spring break was just days away, and she had schoolwork due.

The Tar Heels basketball team had an 8 p.m. game in the Dean Dome, and Carson arrived about 10 minutes late, rushing in after downing a Cosmic Cantina burrito on the way.

With only a couple of weeks left in her term as student body president, the energetic student leader was juggling her many tasks and obligations.


Margaret Wurth had several phone calls from Carson as she waited for her friend outside the Dean Dome on March 4. Carson, a spirited Carolina fan and an advocate for the campus where she had won many admirers, took a break from her studies to watch UNC play Florida State.

“Eve was often late,” Wurth said. “It was not very unusual.”


Wurth left the arena before Carson, knowing the woman she had met in Cuba during a semester abroad was planning to return to her studies later.

As that night turned to early day, Carson and [housemate Anna] Lassiter had several email exchanges. Lassiter had flown to Boston earlier that day for a job interview.


UNC-CH computer technicians told investigators Carson’s campus email account was last accessed at 3:37 a.m.

That, prosecutors contend, is when two worlds collided.

That, they say, is when Carson was rushed by Atwater and Lovette as she stepped outside her home with her laptop, possibly on her way to her student government offices to use the printers or copy machine.

That also is when Carson’s friends–and the many students whose lives she touched in her four years in Chapel Hill–were forced to consider their own mortality and their vulnerability to happenstance.


Lassiter recalled her welling worries after not hearing from Carson for hours and then finding her purse on the couch, her backpack on the floor and her Shakespeare book opened to Hamlet.

Then the curtains parted on a real-life tragedy in which innocence and menace played their sad and terrible roles.