Trial starts in slaying of UNC student leader

Eve Carson would have been conscious and aware after she was shot four times with a .25-caliber pistol early on the morning of March 5, 2008, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Then came a blast from a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun to her right temple, leaving a large gaping wound to her head and the hand she used to try to shield herself.

During his opening statements at the trial of a man charged with killing Carson, Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said the final shot was "instantly fatal."

Her body was left where she fell, in the middle of a residential street near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Carson, 22, of Athens, Ga., was the university's popular student body president and a recipient of the highly regarded Morehead scholarship.

Laurence Lovette Jr., 20, of Durham is charged with first-degree murder.

Woodall said Lovette and Demario Atwater kidnapped Carson and took her in her SUV to a nearby ATM to withdraw $700, the maximum daily limit for her account.

Later, after her body was found, the two men continued to use Carson's card at ATMs in Durham for days, withdrawing another $700, Woodall said.

Atwater pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to two life prison terms.

Lovette will not face the death penalty if convicted because he was a minor at the time of the shooting. He could face life in prison.

Jurors winced Wednesday as they were shown crime-scene photos of Carson's bloody body, which was discovered by a Chapel Hill police officer who responded to a 911 call reporting the sound of gunshots and a woman's scream shortly after 5 a.m.

Shell casings lay on the asphalt near the body. Carson wore a gold locket around her neck. On her left wrist, she was wearing a paper bracelet she got earlier in the week at a Tar Heel basketball game, emblazoned with the phrase "Be True."

Woodall said witness testimony and physical evidence will tie Lovette and Atwater to Carson's murder.

Lovette's DNA was found on the inside door of Carson's Toyota, according to the prosecutor.

Woodall said Atwater's girlfriend will testify to the jury she was with Lovette as he disposed of pieces from the small-caliber handgun Woodall said the defendant used to shoot Carson in the cheek, arm, shoulder and buttocks. Parts of that gun, including the barrel, were later recovered and matched to two bullets pulled from Carson's body.

A man was also captured on surveillance footage using Carson's card at an ATM. Woodall said the clothes and distinctive hairstyle of the man in the video will identify him as Lovette.

In her opening statement, defense lawyer Karen Bethea-Shields conceded that Lovette knew Atwater and that the prosecution will have evidence connecting her client to Carson's car.

But she denied Lovette was with Atwater when he shot Carson with the shotgun. Many of the witnesses for the prosecution will have criminal records and motives to lie, she said.

"There's no forensic evidence to connect Lawrence Lovette to the killing of Eve Carson," Bethea-Shields said.

She predicted to the jury that the prosecution's case will leave them with more questions than answers, which she said will add up to reasonable doubt.

"You will have questions about whether they really have any case at all against the defendant," she said.


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