HILLSBOROUGH — The details of Eve Carson's final hours have been a mystery to the public for more than three and a half years.
On Wednesday, as her family and friends listened in Orange County Superior Court, a description of what befell the 2008 UNC-Chapel Hill student body president began to emerge. When police found her body near dawn March 5, 2008, she was an unknown Jane Doe lying in the street within a quiet, wooded Chapel Hill neighborhood.
She had been shot in the temple and four other places. She had on sweatpants, a T-shirt, a pair of light blue, gray and white Starbury sneakers, and a gold locket. There were no ID cards.
Around her wrist was a paper wristband from a UNC-CH fan appreciation event that gave investigators an early clue that she might have been a UNC-CH student. It bore the slogan, "Be True."
Anna Lassiter, a high school English teacher in New York, lived with Carson and two male roommates while they were students at UNC-CH. In testimony Wednesday, she said the "Be True" wristband came from a Nike-sponsored event they had attended two nights before the fatal shooting. The roommates had made a bet to see who could keep the wristband on longer.
District Attorney Jim Woodall and some of the first police officers to arrive at the scene described finding Carson's body during the first day of testimony in the trial of Laurence Alvin Lovette.
Lovette, 20, is one of two men accused of kidnapping, robbing and murdering Carson. He has pleaded not guilty. DeMario Atwater, 25, the Durham man accused of being his accomplice, pleaded guilty to the crimes last year. Atwater was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole after a plea arrangement with federal and state prosecutors that spared him from capital punishment. He is serving his time in federal prison.
Seven men and five women are on the jury that will decide Lovette's fate. He faces life in prison without possibility of parole if convicted.
Evidence called lacking
Karen Bethea-Shields, one of two attorneys representing Lovette, told the jury Wednesday that prosecutors would present no forensic evidence linking her client to the murder.
Bethea-Shields suggested that Atwater and witnesses that prosecutors plan to call who are friends of the federal inmate have "interest, bias and motivation" to implicate Lovette in the crimes.
"It is our contention that you will have more questions than answers by the time Mr. Woodall is finished with his case," Bethea-Shields said.
The night before she died, Carson attended a Tar Heel basketball game with Margaret Wurth, a classmate and friend. Carson arrived a bit late, as was her custom.
Carson told Wurth in several phone calls as she rushed to the Dean Dome that she had lots of papers and other school work due at the mid-term, and she planned to focus on that after the game.
Justin Singer, another of Carson's roommates, also was a UNC-CH student who studied into the wee hours of the morning.
"That was pretty typical for Eve," Wurth testified Wednesday. "She was often up late working on her school work."
About 1:15 a.m. March 5, Singer got a call from a friend, asking him to pick her up from Franklin Street, where many of the Chapel Hill restaurants and bars are. He left the fraternity house where he had been studying, picked up his friend and stopped by the home he shared on Friendly Lane with Carson, Lassiter and Tristan Heinrich.
It was about 1:30 a.m. when he stopped in his home. Carson was there at the time, and her blue Toyota Highlander was in the driveway, Singer said.
Pair seen on street
Prosecutors contend that Carson encountered the defendant and Atwater shortly after 3:30 a.m.
A woman who had been sitting in her car nearby on Rosemary Street, arguing on the phone with her boyfriend, saw two men walking down Friendly Lane about that time, prosecutors contend.
Prosecutors say activity logs show Carson's computer was last used at 3:37 a.m. that warm, rainy day.
At 3:55 a.m. at a Bank of America on Willow Drive, approximately 2 miles from Carson's home, someone made several attempts to withdraw money and successfully made two transactions - one for $600 and another for $100.
At 4:44 a.m., there were more attempts to withdraw money at an ATM near Northgate Mall, Woodall said, but the two transactions at the Chapel Hill bank had been the $700-per-day limit allowed on Carson's account.
Testimony on Wednesday did not elaborate on how Carson ended up in the Chapel Hill neighborhood where investigators believe she was shot five times - the first four shots from a handgun and the last from a sawed-off shotgun.
But friends of Carson described how they came to realize that the woman investigators were seeking to identify just might be their friend.
Lassiter had been in Boston the last night of Carson's life for a job interview. She called Carson after arriving home March 5, hoping to get together for dinner, and was a little perturbed when she didn't hear back quickly. Then Lassiter said she started piecing together details that became more and more troubling.
Police had included details about Carson's clothing, shoes and accessories in an email blast that went out to all UNC-CH students.
The missing friend
Lassiter knew Carson always wore a gold locket around her neck. When Lassiter found Carson's Shakespeare book opened to "Hamlet," a play she was studying, on the living room couch, and legal pads on the living room table, her worries escalated.
Singer, too, had wondered about Carson's whereabouts when he arrived home at 4:30 a.m. It was not unusual for Carson to drive to her student government office at all hours of the day or night to use the printers or copy machines for class assignments.
It also was not unusual for the front door to be open and unlocked at their Friendly Lane home. The house did not have an air-conditioner, so the students often pushed it open to get air circulating in the house.
About 2 a.m. March 6, Lassiter, Singer, Heinrich and another friend went by the Chapel Hill police department.
Investigators showed them photos from the crime scene, and the cold truth set in.
The trial continues today.