On the night of March 4, 2008, Jayson McNeil received a call from his childhood friend Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr. asking for a ride to Chapel Hill.
Lovette, who is on trial for the March 5, 2008 murder of former Student Body President Eve Carson, asked McNeil to drive him and a friend he called “Rio” to Chapel Hill, where McNeil said Lovette planned to rob someone.
Prosecutors say Lovette, along with his co-defendant Demario “Rio” Atwater, abducted Carson from her Chapel Hill home in the early hours of March 5, took her to at least one ATM to withdraw money, and finally shot her to death in a Chapel Hill neighborhood close to campus.
Lovette is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, armed robbery and felony larceny. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
McNeil, a convicted 20-year-old drug dealer with an extensive criminal history, told the jury what Lovette told him about Carson’s death in the days following the murder in court Tuesday.
After denying Lovette’s request for a ride, McNeil received another call the next day from Lovette, who said he posessed an ATM card and asked McNeil to meet him at the Morehead Mini Mart in Durham.
According to Carson’s Bank of America transaction records, dozens of attempted withdrawals were made on Carson’s account in the days following her death — including at the Morehead Mini Mart.
At the store, McNeil said Lovette attempted to use the ATM card, although he didn’t think he was successful in withdrawing money because Lovette never gave McNeil the money he promised him.
As he was leaving the store, McNeil said a group of men who lived in their neighborhood started an altercation with Lovette. McNeil said the men fled after Lovette pointed a .25-caliber handgun on them, which was given to him by Atwater’s brother during the altercation.
Investigators say Carson received four gunshot wounds from a .25-caliber handgun, which McNeil identified in court as the same gun Lovette pulled on the men that day.
After the altercation, Lovette and McNeil parted ways.
McNeil said he next spoke to Lovette on March 12, 2008 — the same day Atwater was arrested for Carson’s murder.
McNeil said Lovette called him to ask for a ride and kept saying, “They got Rio, they got him.”
He said he and another friend went to pick Lovette up from a neighborhood in Durham, and described Lovette as anxious.
After they picked him up, McNeil said Lovette described to them what happened during the morning of March 5, 2008.
“He explained to me that Rio was going to tell,” he said. “At the time I didnt know, but he explained to me… about the murder of Eve Carson.”
McNeil said Lovette told him he and Awater were driving around Chapel Hill in Lovette’s mom’s PT Cruiser when they saw Carson going towards her Toyota Highlander.
Lovette and Atwater rushed the car, and Lovette got in the driver’s seat, while Atwater got in the back seat and held Carson hostage with a gun to her head, McNeil said.
Lovette told McNeil that on their way to taking Carson to an ATM, Atwater touched Carson in the back seat.
After they took her to withdraw money, McNeil said Lovette told him that they took her to a wooded area, where they planned to shoot her.
McNeil said that Carson pleaded for her life, telling Atwater and Lovette that they could have whatever they wanted and they didn’t need to kill her.
“She was pleading for her life, explaining that they didn’t have to do what they were doing,” McNeil said.
He asked Lovette what led to them murdering her, to which he replied “she had seen their faces.”
In her final moments, Lovette told his friend that Carson asked the men to pray with her.
After hearing Lovette recount the details of Carson’s murder, McNeil said he didn’t want to be involved and tried to take Lovette back to the neighborhood where he picked him up, but people would not let Lovette into their homes.
After about 30 minutes of attempting to find a place to hide out, McNeil said Lovette left his car, and the next time he saw Lovette, he was in custody for Carson’s murder.
McNeil came forward with details about the Carson murder in August after discussing the possibility of immunity with his attorney.
McNeil is facing federal charges for distribution of cocaine and possession of a firearm, and said he is hoping for a shortened sentence because of his testimony.
His sentencing has been rescheduled for Feb. 12.
The defense questioned McNeil about discrepancies between his testimony and evidence on Tuesday.
McNeil said Lovette told him he shot Carson with the handgun five times, though medical examination revealed only four gunshots from the handgun.
McNeil also said Lovette told him Atwater shot Carson with the shotgun in the chest, while the autopsy report and evidence shows a shotgun wound to her right temple.
Cynthia Gardner, a forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on Carson, also testified in court today.
Gardner, who was working with the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Chapel Hill at the time of Carson’s death, described in detail to the jurors the wounds she found on Carson during her examination.
Investigators say Carson was shot four times with a .25-caliber handgun, sustaining injuries to the right shoulder, arm, cheek and buttocks.
Graphic photographs of Carson’s injuries were shown to the court, as some jurors wiped back tears.
Gardner said she found blood in Carson’s lung during the autopsy, indicating that she was still alive and breathing after the four shots from the handgun.
The fifth gunshot, which prosecutors say came from a sawed-off shotgun, ripped through Carson’s right hand and penetrated her right temple and brain.
Gardner said she thinks the shot from the shotgun would have been fatal due to the damage it caused to parts of Carson’s brain vital for sustaining life functions.
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