April 19, 2010 -- One of the men charged with the 2008 murder of University of North Carolina student Eve Carson agreed to plead guilty today in a deal that spared him the death penalty.
Demario Atwater, 23, will plead guilty to several federal charges, including carjacking and kidnapping resulting in death. Atwater's federal trial had been scheduled to begin in May.
Carson, who was 22 when she was murdered, was taken from near her Chapel Hill, N.C., home in the early morning hours of March 5, 2008, and driven in her own SUV to several ATM machines where investigators say she was forced to withdraw $1,400.
The blond-haired, brown-eyed murder victim was found shot to death in the middle of a Chapel Hill street later that day, rocking the serene college community which knew Carson as their beloved student body president.
An autopsy later determined that the native of Athens, Ga., had been shot five times, including once in the head.
"Eve Carson's murder was a senseless, random act of violence. Today's plea spares Ms. Carson's family and friends the uncertainty and pain of a drawn-out trial and endless appeals," U.S. Attorney Anna Mills Wagoner said in a press release. "We hope this resolution will help the Carson family put this horrendous act behind them, as best they can, and move on with their lives."
Atwater pleaded guilty to carjacking resulting in death, kidnapping resulting in death, carrying and using firearms during and in relation to carjacking and kidnapping resulting in death, possession of firearms by a convicted felon, and possession of a short-barreled shotgun.
He will be formally sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole or early release in September.
In a statement released by through the attorney general's office, the Carson family said, "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."
"We are very grateful for the dedication and hard work that have gone into the investigation and prosecution of this crime," the Carson family said.
According to the North Carolina News and Observer, the prosecution had planned to make a strong case for the death penalty, had Atwater's case gone to trial.
Federal prosecutors had argued that the homicide was committed in such an "especially heinous, cruel and depraved manner" that it "involved torture and serious physical abuse to the victim," according to the paper.
The man charged as Atwater's accomplice, 19-year-old Laurence Lovette, faces state charges because he was a minor when Carson was killed. Both Atwater's and Lovette's state trial dates have yet to be set.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.