Murder of Eve Carson
|Born||Eve Marie Carson
November 19, 1985
|Died||March 5, 2008
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Cause of death
|Homicide (gunshot wounds)|
Hillcrest Circle and Hillcrest Drive
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
|Oconee Hill Cemetery
|Monuments||Eve Marie Carson Garden|
|Education||Bachelors Degree in Political Science and Biology|
|Alma mater||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill|
|Organization||Phi Beta Kappa|
|Title||UNC Student Body President|
Board member of
|UNC Board of Trustees|
|Parents||Bob and Teresa Carson|
|Awards||Morehead-Cain Scholarship, North Carolina Fellow, General Alumni Association of UNC's 2009 Distinguished Young Alumni Award|
Eve Marie Carson (November 19, 1985 – March 5, 2008) was a student at the University of North Carolina who was shot and killed on the morning of March 5, 2008, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States. She served as student body president and was a recipient of the Morehead-Cain Scholarship.
Demario James Atwater, a 21-year-old resident of Durham, North Carolina was charged with her murder, and on May 24, 2010, Atwater pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in a plea bargain agreement that will have him serve two sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole. A second suspect, 17-year-old Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., was taken into custody early morning March 13, 2008. Later, investigators also connected Lovette to the January 2008 murder of 29-year-old Duke University engineering student Abhijit Mahato.
Carson was born in Athens, Georgia, on November 19, 1985, where she attended Clarke Central High School. She was elected president of the high school's student body and was valedictorian. During high school, Carson also began developing a passion for giving to her community as a peer educator at the Athens Area Attention Home. This desire for service continued as Carson began her college career at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her academic achievements earned her membership in the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, and she was a recipient of the Morehead-Cain Scholarship. While at UNC, Carson majored in political science and biology, in the pre-medicine career path. Outside of class, Carson participated in and led numerous organizations and service projects. She was selected to be a North Carolina Fellow, a four-year leadership development program, and posthumously received the Chancellor's award for most outstanding woman in the senior class and the General Alumni Association's Distinguished Young Alumnus award.
Carson was inaugurated as UNC's student body president in April 2007, and her term was due to expire in April 2008. Carson ran for student body president out of a desire to give to the university and empower UNC students to take an active role in their community. In her role as student body president, Carson served as a member of the university's board of trustees and many other committees, but viewed one of her most important roles as representing all UNC students. Carson was especially vocal about providing students more predictable increases in school tuition and fees, one of her major platform points when running for student body president. Her platform also included ideas to provide additional opportunities open to all students, most notably the establishment of a prestigious scholarship for students in their junior who showed outstanding commitment and service to the university, and the creation of an endowment to fund a big-name speaker series that would be free for all students. As student body president, Carson is remembered for her ability to bring together diverse groups of students, faculty, and administrators for a common goal and for her desire to represent the entire student body and their opinions. Carson was also active as co-president of the Honors Program Student Executive Board and as a member of the Committee on Scholarships, Awards and Student Aide, the Academic Advising Program, the Chancellor Search Committee, the Chancellor’s Committee for University Teaching Awards, co-chairwoman of UNC's chapter of Nourish International, and an assistant coach for Girls on the Run.
Through her Morehead-Cain Scholarship, Carson continued her passion for service-learning work. Traveling to Ecuador in the summer of 2005, Carson volunteered in the rural countryside as a physician's assistant, worked on a coffee farm, and taught computer and technology skills to youth and adults in an indigenous Siona community in the Amazon rain forest. In 2006, Carson studied abroad with UNC's Spring Semester in Havana, Cuba, and spent the summer in Egypt working with a U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit. She continued exploring service learning in Chapel Hill as a reflections leader for the A.P.P.L.E.S. (Assisting People in Planning Learning Experiences in Service) Program at the university. Carson also spent the summer before matriculation to the university participating in a National Outdoor Leadership School program in Wyoming.
Carson's body was found at the intersection of Hillcrest Circle and Hillcrest Drive in Chapel Hill at approximately 5 a.m. on March 5, 2008. Police could not immediately identify the body, but at 9 a.m. on March 6, 2008, police investigators and the office of the medical examiner identified the body as that of Carson. The Chapel Hill police chief said that Carson's death appeared to be a random act. Police recovered her car more than a mile away from her body after receiving a tip from a local witness. Police also released images from a security video of a person using Carson's ATM card.
Carson was shot several times, including a shotgun blast to the head. According to a confidential informant to Chapel Hill police, both Atwater and Lovette shot her. The medical examiner said that Carson had not been sexually assaulted.
Memorial and funeral
On March 6, 2008, at 3 p.m., UNC's Chancellor James Moeser spoke to the student body on the central quad, Polk Place, and at 7 p.m. students organized a candlelit vigil in the Pit, a sunken plaza near the student union building. The service included singing by three student a cappella groups and a slideshow of photos of Carson. Hundreds of people attended Carson's March 9 funeral in Athens, including Moeser, who said that Carson was "truly a gift to Chapel Hill."
In honor of Carson, the North Carolina men's and women's basketball teams wore a black badge on their jersey that read "EVE" for the remainder of their seasons. On March 8, 2008, before the start of the Carolina–Duke men's basketball game, there was a moment of silence in honor of Eve and Duke engineering student Abhijit Mahato.
Carson's dual-major bachelor's degree was posthumously awarded—for the first time in the University's history—to her surviving family (parents and brother) at the May 2008 UNC graduation ceremony she would have attended had she lived. She was posthumously awarded the General Alumni Association of UNC's 2009 Distinguished Young Alumni Award.
Investigation and prosecution
Due to the high-profile nature of the case, records such as the autopsy report and search warrants were sealed from public view in the months after the murder. On June 27, 2008, some information was finally released. Details in six warrants confirm that $1,400 was withdrawn from ATMs using Carson's card over a two-day period after the shooting. They also reveal that Atwater admitted to being the suspect attempting to use the ATM card in a security video taken in a local convenience store and that Lovette was indeed the person pictured in original ATM surveillance photograph. The autopsy report was released on June 30, 2008.
State and federal charges
On March 12, 2008, first-degree murder charges were filed against 21-year-old Demario James Atwater. His accomplice, 17-year-old Laurence Alvin Lovette, Jr., was arrested and charged with the same the following day. On July 7, 2008, additional charges of first-degree kidnapping and armed robbery were raised against the two murder suspects, along with felonious larceny and felonious stolen goods. Atwater was also charged with possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of weapon of mass destruction (based on the specifications of the shotgun used in the murder).
In July 2008, federal investigators also brought federal carjacking charges against Atwater. These charges were of particular significance because carjacking committed during a homicide carries the death penalty. As a result of the Roper v. Simmons ruling, Lovette could not face the death penalty as he was under 18 at the time of the crimes.
Atwater pleas and sentencing
On April 19, 2010, Atwater pleaded guilty to federal charges of carjacking, kidnapping, and weapons possession. Judge James A. Beaty of the United States District Court in Winston-Salem sentenced him to life in prison plus 30 years on September 23, 2010. Atwater was also ordered to undergo substance abuse treatment and pay restitution of $212,947.10 should he ever be released, which Judge Beaty noted was "highly unlikely." At the sentencing hearing, Atwater turned to Eve Carson's parents and said, "I'm sorry for everything that's happened ... No matter what the court did today, it would be far from anything I should receive." Eve Carson's parents declined to speak during the hearing.
On May 24, 2010, Atwater pleaded guilty to state charges of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, armed robbery, and possession of a firearm by a felon. In exchange for his plea, state prosecutors agreed not to pursue the death penalty. Judge Allen Baddour of Superior Court in Hillsborough subsequently sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder charge, and also imposed a concurrent sentence of 23 to 29 years for the additional charges.
Lovette trial, verdict and sentencing
After pleading not guilty to state charges of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree armed robbery, felonious larceny, and felonious possession of stolen goods, Lovette remained in custody awaiting trial, which began on December 6, 2011. Lovette declined to testify during the trial. On December 20, 2011, a jury found Lovette guilty on all charges.
After the verdict, Judge Allen Baddour, the same judge who sentenced Atwater in 2010, stated, "The life that Ms. Carson led was too short, but I know that she continues to be an inspiration, not only for her family, but for thousands in this community and across this country." Judge Baddour subsequently sentenced Lovette to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Neither Lovette nor Eve Carson's parents spoke before the sentence was handed down.
On February 5, 2013 the North Carolina Court of Appeals vacated Lovette's life sentence and ordered a new sentencing hearing. The decision relied on Miller v. Alabama, where the Supreme Court ruled that a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole for defendants under 18 at the time of a crime is cruel and unusual punishment. On June 3, a resentencing hearing was held. After Judge Baddour considered mitigating circumstances, Lovette was again sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Lovette has also been charged with the murder of Abhijit Mahato, a 29-year-old Duke University engineering student who was found dead inside his off-campus apartment in January 2008. A trial date has not been set.
To honor her life, the University of North Carolina established the Eve Carson Scholarship (officially the Eve Marie Carson Memorial Junior-Year Merit Scholarship) in order to achieve Eve's goal of "reward[ing] students who had grown significantly in the areas of academics, social justice and leadership since their college matriculation". The scholarship is entirely student-run and is awarded annually to two juniors at the university and includes a $5,000 stipend for a summer experience and half-cost of attendance for the students' senior year. The scholarship is intended to allow students to further give back to UNC by alleviating the financial burden of paying for college, upholding the scholarship's tag line of 'Students Celebrating Students'. The Morehead-Cain Scholarship also endowed a four-year, full merit scholarship in Carson's honor named the Eve Marie Carson Carolina Way Scholarship. The scholarship is expected to help attract qualified out-of-state students to the university and will provide recipients with additional programming and support during their undergraduate career.
The Eve Carson Scholarship also hosts an event called Every Moment Counts to honor Carson by encouraging students and Chapel Hill community members to participate in small actions that would produce a better community. Every Moment Counts takes place each March surrounding the anniversary of Carson's death. The event was originally named Random Acts of Kindness and as started by students Natalie Sutton and Katherine Novinski.
The case was brought to national attention again in 2009 after American Idol finalist Anoop Desai, who was a friend of Carson's, talked about the incident on the show and how it motivated him to audition.
On the second anniversary of her death, UNC dedicated the Eve Marie Carson Garden in honor of her and all students, past and future, who pass away before graduation. The garden is located near the Campus YMCA, an organization in which Carson was active, and contains a blue stone seat overlooking the campus's main quad. One feature of the garden is a wall of Georgia marble inscribed with her words: "Learn from every single being, experience, and moment. What joy it is to search for lessons and goodness and enthusiasm in others." 
The Pi Beta Phi and Phi Delta Theta chapters of UNC now host the annual Eve Carson Memorial 5K for Education in her honor. The race was established by an organization named Students for the Carolina Way, which is now inactive, in 2008. The money raised each year goes to the Eve Carson Scholarship and First Book, Pi Phi's national philanthropy for literacy. The 2010 race raised over $30,000 and was the largest 5K in Chapel Hill history. The 2011 race is set for November 19, Carson's birthday.
Finally, a distinguished lecture series created as part of Carson's student body president platform was renamed in her honor in the fall of 2010 by the university's Executive Branch of Student Government. The series aimed to bring big-name speakers to campus in order to challenge students and spark discussion. Speakers have included Elizabeth Edwards, author and humanitarian Greg Mortenson, now Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, Mika Brzezinski, and most recently, former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.
In March 2012, controversy arose when an Indian consulting firm distributed advertising posters containing a copyrighted photo of Carson.
In April 2012, Clarke Central Alumni planted a tree in honor of Eve on the campus of Clarke Central High School. They received donations from all over the country in order to pay for the garden that was created in her honor.
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|Wikinews has related news: University of North Carolina student body president murdered|
- Eve Marie Carson Scholarship.
- Eve Carson Memorial 5K.
- Eve Carson, 1985–2008 University memorial website.
- Eve Carson memorial photo gallery
- Eve Carson memorial videos
- Eve Carson. The News & Observer's coverage of Carson.
- Eve Carson homicide. WRAL-TV's coverage of the murder.
- Lawrence Lovette trial WRAL's coverage of the murder trial.
- wdydwyd? Eve's answer to, "Why do you do what you do?" two days before she was shot.
- YouTube Videos of Eve on YouTube.com