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Eve Carson’s case is closed, but her legacy lives on through the Carolina Way

8733_0109_carsonbench_mccayf.jpg
An anonymous donor/community member left a bouquet of roses on the Eve Carson Memorial Butterfly Bench (Note: UNC cites this a few different ways on the website, so check with management on the CQ) last December. [I'm pretty sure it's legit to say that] The bouquet was left during the trial of Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr. in December. Someone sent Steven an email about this, so he might have more ideas/info about the caption. Also, some of these could be cool as a cut-out in a recap package/spread or something. P.S. GO TEAM PHOTO

This story was originally published in January after the trial of Laurence Alvin Lovette, a man accused in Eve Carson’s murder, was found guilty. Today, on the anniversary of her death, it’s republished here in her memory. See the Eve Carson topic page for more, and share your memories of Eve on Facebook.

Eve Marie Carson’s murder was a random crime — but it has left a permanent mark on the University and those who knew the vibrant, beloved 2008 student body president.

On Dec. 20, the almost four-year legal journey for the Durham man charged with Carson’s March 2008 murder came to a close.

Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 21, was found guilty of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, armed robbery and felony larceny in connection with Carson’s death and sentenced to life in prison — ending a three-week trial that revealed new details about Carson’s final hours.

Carson was found dead in a Chapel Hill neighborhood on the morning of March 5, 2008, after being kidnapped from her home, taken to withdraw money from her bank account and shot five times.

Lovette was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder and more than 12 years in sentences for additional charges.

His co-defendant, Demario James Atwater, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in connection with Carson’s death in 2010 and is serving two life sentences in federal prison.

“This was an absolutely senseless murder,” District Attorney Jim Woodall said at Lovette’s trial. “The citizens from this state need to be protected from Laurence Lovette.”

A random act

On the night of Carson’s murder, Woodall said Lovette was looking for someone to rob, and he planned to kill the person to prevent them from identifying him.

But it was chance that placed Carson — one of the most well-known faces on the University’s campus — into their path.

After attending a UNC basketball game on the evening of March 4, she returned to her Friendly Lane house.

With only a few weeks left in her term as student body president, she was busy, and her tendency to procrastinate led her to stay home by herself and study that night.

At about 1:30 a.m. on March 5, Carson’s roommate, Justin Singer, returned home briefly and saw Carson studying on the couch, where he last saw her. Her last Internet use was at 3:37 a.m. to access Facebook, investigators testified.

Prosecutors said that at about 3:40 a.m., Carson was leaving her house, possibly to print a paper from her student government office on campus.

A nearby sorority house’s surveillance video showed two men in dark, baggy clothing walking toward Friendly Lane at about 3:33 a.m. Prosecutors said they believed the men to be Atwater and Lovette, who saw Carson going toward her car.

The two men “rushed” the Toyota Highlander, and Lovette took the driver’s seat while Atwater held Carson hostage in the backseat at gunpoint, according to the testimony of Lovette’s childhood friend, Jayson McNeil.

At about 3:55 a.m., an ATM surveillance video from the Bank of America on Willow Drive in Chapel Hill showed an image of a man who prosecutors said was Lovette attempting to use an ATM card several times.

An enhanced surveillance video from the ATM showed the jury two figures, who prosecutors said were Carson and Atwater, in the backseat. A total of $1,400 was withdrawn from Carson’s account that night and in the next days.

Carson was in the car with the two men for more than an hour. McNeil testified that Lovette said she pleaded for her life and asked her abductors to pray with her.

Woodall contended Lovette fired the first four shots to Carson’s right shoulder, arm, buttocks and cheek from a .25-caliber handgun. Prosecutors said Atwater fired the fifth shot with a sawed-off shotgun.

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Carson’s body was found by police at the intersection of Hillcrest Road and Hillcrest Circle that morning after reports of gunshots. Her roommates did not tentatively identify her until late that night.

During the trial, prosecutors and witnesses narrated the police investigation that pieced together the details, which led to Atwater and Lovette’s arrests a week later.

The defense presented no evidence in the trial, and Lovette declined his right to testify.

‘Excellence with heart’

In the heart of the University’s campus, near the Campus Y, a small memorial garden commemorates Carson’s life.

“Learn from every single being, experience and moment,” Carson once said. The quote is now inscribed on the wall of the garden.

Carson was 22 years old at the time of her death. Friends remember her as full of life and constantly searching for the good in others.

In high school, Carson was president of her class at Clarke Central High School in Athens, Ga.

Rosemary Heath, one of Carson’s best friends in high school, said people were drawn to Carson because of her kindness.

“She was one of those people that people gravitated toward,” she said. “She could be silly, play dress up, then the next day she could go to the lab.”

Despite receiving scholarships from Yale and Princeton University, Carson chose to come to UNC on a Morehead-Cain scholarship because she wanted to receive a public education.

Chuck Lovelace, executive director of the Morehead-Cain Foundation, first met Carson during the selection process for the scholarship.

“I could tell from meeting her the very first time that she had a huge ability to connect with people,” he said.

Carson was a double major in political science and biology who spent her summers volunteering in places like Egypt and Ecuador.

Carson also tutored elementary school students, worked with the character development program Girls on the Run and was involved with many other University groups and boards.

“She was very generous in giving her time to anybody that asked for it,” Lovelace said.

After news of Carson’s death reached the campus, thousands of students turned out for memorial services in Polk Place and the Dean Smith Center to mourn her death.

Hundreds of friends, students and UNC officials attended Carson’s funeral in her hometown of Athens, where Heath said she is still thought of often.

“I don’t think there’s a day that goes by without thinking about her,” Heath said.

A lasting legacy

Nearly four years after her death shocked the University, most current students have never even met Carson — but her presence is still felt across campus.

Scholarships, charity races, a ball and a garden all honor her memory.

As student body president, Carson hoped to create a junior year scholarship. That dream was realized in 2008 after her death when the Eve Carson Junior Year Scholarship was put into place.

Carson’s legacy has also become closely tied with the “Carolina Way” — which Lovelace described as “excellence with heart.”

“I think Carolina is a very complex place but Eve sort of epitomized … how positive and how human the Carolina experience could be,” he said. “I think that will be her legacy.”

And those who knew her say they focus on good memories instead of how Carson’s life ended.

“The evil that Eve encountered at the end of her life will never diminish the goodness that she brought to the world. Now that justice has been served, we can remember her without distraction,” Lovelace said in an email. “Learning that she faced death with courage and faith in God will continue to inspire all of us who love and miss her.”

Contact the City Editor at city@dailytarheel.com.