Demario Atwater pleads guilty
HILLSBOROUGH (WTVD) -- A plea deal announced Monday will spare one of the men accused in the killing of UNC Student Body President Eve Carson the death penalty.
Demario Atwater agreed to plead guilty to state charges that include first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, and armed robbery.
"The state stipulates, so people understand that's not the whole truth, that's just what they think so," Atwater said.
"Mr. Atwater, what you've admitted to doing was senseless...to the family of Eve Carson, this is inexplicable," Judge Allen Baddour said.
In court in Hillsborough Monday, Atwater, no longer wearing the orange prison suit he's appeared in so many times in court, entered the courtroom and quietly took his seat. The District Attorney Jim Woodall read the charges against him and asked how he would like to plead.
Atwater's public defender stated he'd plead guilty as part of a plea agreement.
Under questioning, Atwater admitted guilt to all the charges. As Woodall laid out the facts of the case, he said Atwater used a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun to kill Carson.
Investigators believe Carson, 22, was taken from her Chapel Hill home on the morning of March 5, 2008. Woodall said the investigation revealed Carson was at home working on her computer when she was kidnapped.
According to an autopsy report, she was shot five times. Before she died, investigators say Atwater and co-defendant Laurence Lovette, Jr. drove Carson's SUV to various ATMs in Chapel and Durham. They say the Athens, Georgia woman watched as hundreds of dollars were withdrawn from her bank account.
Woodall said a Bank of America ATM photo led investigators to their first big break. An informant identified Atwater. Prosecutors also showed a still photo of bank surveillance video that showed Carson in the backseat of her car. She was alive at the time.
Lovette’s DNA was found on interior door of Carson’s car and Carson’s iPod was found in Atwater’s home. When Atwater was arrested, he had $700 in cash on him.
Atwater's girlfriend told detectives that Atwater said the guns were destroyed - “cut up” - and discarded. Parts of the handgun were recovered exactly where witnesses said they would be. The shotgun was found in two different locations with the help of another witness. DNA profiles matching Atwater were found on parts of gun.
In court Monday, a statement from Carson's family was read.
"We choose not to confront Demario Atwater," they said. "This coward is unaddressable. We choose to focus on Eve’s life."
Atwater already pleaded guilty in federal court earlier this year to carjacking charges related to the murder and a judge sentenced him to a life term. His plea deal with the state also carries a life term.
In sentencing Atwater Monday, Judge Baddour said the state sentence would start at the end of the federal sentence. Atwater will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
"To the family of Eve Carson, this is inexplicable. It is a tragedy. You've shown grace and your compassion through this process. I hope that you'll take some solace in today's events and recognizing number of lives your daughter touched," said Baddour.
Woodall too spoke to the family.
"There aren't any words how senseless and how tragic Eve Carson's death is," he said. "I've lived here 30 years. I have a sense of how this affected the community, how it's affected the people who love her. Her parents and brother are wonderful people. To have her taken away, I simply can't imagine."
Lovette was 17 at the time of the killing and was not eligible for the death penalty. His case is still pending.
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