RALEIGH, N.C. April 19, 2010 (AP)
The man accused of killing a University of North Carolina student body president found shot to death in the middle of a street two years ago pleaded guilty Monday to federal crimes, avoiding the death penalty.
In a 2008 file photo, Demario Atwater arrives in Wake County court in Raleigh, N.C.
Atwater pleaded guilty Monday, April 19, 2010 to several charges, including carjacking resulting in the 2008 death of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's student body president Eve Carson. In response, prosecutors agreed to drop plans to pursue the death penalty. Demario Atwater, 23, pleaded guilty to several charges, including carjacking resulting in death and kidnapping. Prosecutors agreed to drop their plan to pursue the death penalty and Atwater agreed to a life sentence.
Eve Carson, 22, of Athens, Ga., was found shot to death in the middle of a Chapel Hill street in March 2008. She had been shot five times, including once in the head with a 12-gauge shotgun.
"While we deplore the evil and negligence that led to Eve's death, we agree with the U.S. attorney's decision to accept the plea agreement," Carson's parents said in a statement released by prosecutors Monday.
Atwater is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 23, and he still faces a murder charge in state court along with Laurence Lovette, who was only 17 at the time of the killing and is ineligible for the death penalty. Lovette does not face federal charges.
Authorities believe Atwater and Lovette kidnapped Carson from outside her Chapel Hill home just before 4 a.m., stole her sport utility vehicle and took her to several ATMs, eventually withdrawing $1,400.
Carson's killing shocked the university community in Chapel Hill, outraged state lawmakers and highlighted problems within North Carolina's probation and parole system.
A state investigation found that Atwater was never placed under intensive probation ó which can include mandatory curfews, weekly contact and warrantless searches ó despite two court orders to do so, the first dating to a February 2005 conviction on a pair of felony charges. When Atwater later told officials he was living in Durham, Wake County probation officers didn't transfer his case there for more than two years.
Lovette pleaded guilty to misdemeanor larceny and breaking and entering just two months before Carson's death and received a two-year suspended sentence. He was then assigned to a Durham probation officer who said she was handling more than 120 cases even through she had yet to complete a basic training course. In the six weeks that followed, authorities in Durham arrested Lovette several times and charged him with nine crimes, including burglary, car theft, breaking and entering, and resisting arrest.