HILLSBOROUGH — Fifteen days after Eve Carson's body was found in a dark, wooded neighborhood about a mile from the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, investigators got a big break in their investigation into who killed the bright, energetic student leader, Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall told jurors this morning.
In a conversational opening argument, Woodall outlined for jurors why investigators have Laurence Alvin Lovette, a 20-year-old Durham man, on trial for kidnapping, robbery and murder in the death on March 5, 2008, of Carson.
Lovette has pleaded not guilty to the accusations.
DeMario Atwater, a 25-year-old man serving a life sentence in federal prison and the Durham man prosecutors say was Lovette's accomplice, pleaded guilty to the accusations last year.
Woodall said in his opening statement that Shanita Love, a Durham woman, sat down with investigators and offered details that had not been released publicly.
Love, a Durham woman with an arrest record, was the girlfriend of Atwater in 2008.
She told investigators that she, Atwater and Lovette were on their way to get her vehicle out of Geer Street car shop in Durham one day, and Lovette was in the car with them and another man.
During that trip, Woodall said Lovette told investigators that Lovette threw a broken-up handgun out the window in three different places.
Investigators went with her to Durham later that day and found handgun parts in two of the three places she had mentioned.
Love, according to Woodall, led investigators not only to Lovette, but her boyfriend.
Love, according to Woodall, also described another incident when Lovette and Atwater went outside her house with a sawed-off shotgun "They called it the baby-gauge," Woodall said and beat it against the outside of the house. The pair returned inside, loaded shotgun pieces into a bag.
Love, according to Woodall, could not lead investigators to that broken-up weapon, but another person could.
Karen Bethea-Shields, a Durham attorney representing Lovette, urged jurors in her brief opening statement to consider the testimony of witnesses such as Love, as the trial progresses, and ask about their loyalties to the defendant and others implicated in the case.
She told jurors to pay attention to whether there was any forensic evidence linking Lovette to the shooting.
Prosecutors contend that Lovette and Atwater approached Carson early on March 5, after she had been working on a paper alone in her home.
They say the pair kidnapped her, drove her to a Nationsbank ATM near University Mall in Chapel Hill and forced her to withdraw $600 and then another $100 reaching the maximum $700 she could withdraw in a day.
Bank records will show other attempts to withdraw money, using that card, some of which occurred after the death of Carson.
In her 15-minute opening statement, Bethea-Shields told jurors that she thought at the end of the trial they would have more questions about what happened on March 5, 2008, than answers from prosecutors.
"You will have questions about where all the money is," Bethea-Shields contended.
Jurors, she contended, will also have questions "about how many people are involved in this."
Eight men and seven women make up the jury and three alternates who will hear testimony in the coming weeks. There is one African-American man on the jury.
Carson's parents and brother sat in the front row behind the prosecutors. Some administrators from UNC-Chapel Hill honors programs that Carson participated in while a student sat in the row behind her family.
Lovette sat between his lawyers, wearing a dark suit. His hair is shortly cropped, a different style from the shoulder-length braids in his arrest photo.