For some, it brought surprise. For others, it brought justice.
But for most, Demario James Atwater’s decision to plead guilty to the federal charges of kidnapping and carjacking resulting in former Student Body President Eve Carson’s death brought a sense of closure.
“It was part of a series of things that are helping to bring closure for me,” said Peggy Jablonski, vice chancellor for student affairs. “It’s a major step on the road toward closure.”
Like several other administrators and members of student government who worked alongside Carson, Jablonski said Atwater’s decision also brought relief.
“It’s helpful to hear that Eve’s parents are comfortable with the overall process,” she said, “And I also am glad that they do not have to be subjected to a long trial.”
Atwater is still facing first-degree murder and kidnapping charges in state court. Lawrence Alvin Lovette, who was not charged federally, faces the same state charges.
Carson’s parents released a statement expressing their approval of the plea in federal court.
“We agree with the U.S. Attorney’s decision to accept the plea agreement,” the statement read.
“We are very grateful for the dedication and hard work that have gone into the investigation and prosecution of this crime.”
The family declined to comment further on the plea, requesting that all questions be directed to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Student Body President Hogan Medlin, the third student to hold the position since Carson’s term was tragically cut short in 2008, said his first thoughts went to Carson’s family.
“Knowing that the Carsons were OK with the decision that was made, to me, says a lot,” said Medlin, who worked with Carson during his freshman year. “They publicly said they didn’t want the death penalty. It’s good to bring closure to this.”
Senior Thomas Edwards, the former director of the Eve Marie Carson Scholarship, said the plea agreement will bring relief to friends and family who would have been involved with the trial, which was set to begin in Winston-Salem in early May.
“This is going to make things easier for them,” said Edwards, who has overseen the junior year scholarship established in Carson’s honor.
“It’s definitely one of the benefits of this. It does provide closure knowing someone was going to be punished for this tragedy.”
Chancellor Holden Thorp shared Edwards’ relief — but not the sense of closure.
“Nothing is going to make us feel better about what happened,” Thorp said. “It’s a tragic loss. If this gets us to the end of the whole thing more quickly and more easily, then I am very grateful for that.”
Jablonski said she felt sorrow for both the Carson and Atwater families upon learning of the plea.
“When I read the quote Atwater’s mother gave apologizing to the Carsons, it occurred to me that there is another family suffering, also,” she said.
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