Current Date: Thu, 12 Dec 2013 00:48:16 -0500
Shanita Love was Demario James Atwater’s live-in girlfriend in 2008 when he was charged with the shooting of former Student Body President Eve Carson.
Love joined other witnesses in testifying Friday at the trial of Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr. about the days following the killing.
Lovette is the second man charged in the crime, but unlike Atwater — who pleaded guilty in 2010 and is serving a life sentence — Lovette was 17 at the time and cannot receive the death penalty.
Lovette, now 21, faces charges of first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping among others in connection with Carson’s death.
Love presented what the prosecution says are key details that link Lovette to Carson’s March 5, 2008 shooting.
In the Hillsborough courtroom, Love told the jury that she realized Atwater — whom she called “Rio” — and Lovette’s connection with Carson’s murder after seeing pictures of the two men on the news and hearing details from Atwater.
Prosecutors say Carson was abducted from her off-campus house while studying early in the morning of March 5, then taken to an ATM to withdraw money and later to the intersection at Hillcrest Road and Hillcrest Circle, where she was shot five times.
An ATM surveillance camera had captured an image of a man, who prosecutors say was Lovette, using Carson’s card.
Love said she was watching the news at the apartment she shared with Atwater in Durham when she saw Lovette’s picture.
“Rio called for Alvin,” she told the court. “When he came upstairs he said ‘oh s—t’ and asked to use the phone and left.”
She said Lovette, who she refers to as Alvin, also admitted in conversation to “hitting”, or shooting, Carson.
“I remember we were standing around and they were talking about it,” she said. “Alvin had stated that he had hit her a couple of times and she was still talking and moving around.”
Love began to say what Atwater said next in the conversation, but the defense objected.
She also told the court details of how the two men disposed of the what prosecutors say were the murder weapons.
Investigators say Carson was shot four times with a .25 mm handgun and a fifth time in the head with a sawed-off shotgun.
Love said Lovette disposed of pieces of the .25 mm gun in three different locations when she, Atwater, Lovette and another man went to pick up their truck from a Durham auto shop on March 8, 2008.
Investigators were able to find two of the pieces of the gun at the locations Love described to them.
Another witness, Jeffrey Harris, told a similar story. Harris was an associate of Atwater and Lovette who had bought drugs from Atwater in the past.
Harris testified that on March 8, 2008 he picked up Love, Atwater and Lovette from a mutual friend’s house and drove them several places before taking the three to Atwater’s father’s shop.
Harris testified that during the drive he saw Lovette dispose of several pieces of a metal object. He testified that Love threw one piece out of the car window into a wooded area near the auto shop.
Harris said that after he left Atwater, Love and Lovette at the auto shop, he drove home.
Love told the court that Atwater and Lovette also broke apart the sawed-off shotgun, which they nicknamed “the baby gauge,” by beating it against the side of the building where they lived.
Love said Atwater then put the two broken pieces of the gun into a shopping bag and left.
Bethea-Shields asked Harris to discuss an instance that happened a few days after the disposal from the car, in which Atwater asked Harris to get rid of a bag.
Harris said he refused to “junebug” for Atwater, his term for disposing of evidence without compensation. He said a man named Carl disposed of the bag.
District Attorney Jim Woodall presented both guns as evidence in court.
Love’s first, less-detailed statement to the Chapel Hill Police Department came directly after Atwater’s arrest, but after she was told by investigators she could be charged with accessory to murder, she said she came forward with more details about the case.
Defense attorney Karen Bethea-Shields questioned Love’s credibility as a witness, drawing attention to her criminal record and discrepancies between Love’s testimony on Friday and her testimony about the case in front of a grand jury Mar. 31, 2008.
Bethea-Shields also questioned Love about a video investigators found on a cellphone she shared with Atwater of her 3-year-old son smoking a blunt.
Love initially said she did not know if her son inhaled, but after Bethea-Shields showed the video to Love, she admitted through tears that the child had inhaled the marijuana.
Bethea-Shields also questioned Harris’ credibility as a witness by questioning him about his past drug connections.
Mercedes Bailey, another witness, said she has known Lovette, who she calls Alvin, since middle school.
Bailey said that in early March, 2008, Lovette visited her and took her to a barber shop and to purchase sunglasses. Bailey said it was unusual to see Lovette with money, which he carried with him that day in the form of “a good amount” of $20 bills.
Lovette told Bailey that he had robbed someone to acquire the money.
Bailey said that she saw a picture of Lovette withdrawing money from an ATM, which she identified for the jury, on TV that same night.
The defense questioned Bailey about a prior larceny charge – causing a disruption in proceedings as the attorneys debated the relevance of her charge.
Attorneys also established that Bailey did not tell SBI investigators about Lovette’s claim that he robbed someone, or about the money, until Nov. 17, 2011.
The jury also heard further testimony about and saw a receipt from Lovette’s purchases in the days following the murder.