Chapel Hill Mourns Coed, Again

For some, Eve Carson's murder reminds them of a similar 1993 killing.

March 18, 2008 — -- When the blond-haired, brown-eyed murder victim, found shot to death on March 5, was identified as University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's student body president Eve Carson, the quintessentially quiet southern town was turned on its head, and not for the first time.

Carson's murder — as brutal and random as it seems — was not the first the college town has mourned.

In 1993, 26-year-old UNC student Kristin Lodge-Miller, whom Carson bore a striking resemblance to, was gunned down in broad daylight as she took her daily jog, putting the violent murder on display for a number of early morning commuters.

Lodge-Miller's assailant, then 18-year-old Anthony Georg Simpson, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Some community members argued the charge was too lenient, believing Simpson, who is black, should have been slapped with a charge of first-degree murder for killing the white coed.

Simpson was sentenced to life in prison and became eligible for parole after serving 10 years. He is now up for parole every year, but he has yet to get it.

As details of Carson's death emerged last week, Chapel Hill residents quickly learned that they must yet again cope with a violent clash between the largely affluent, advantaged world of the UNC campus and the more impoverished communities that surround the college.

In an interview with the local paper after Carson's murder, Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy spoke to the lasting memories these violent acts inflict on the community.

"I don't think anybody who lived here then will ever forget it," Foy said of the Lodge-Miller murder in the News & Observer. "It's part of what we carry around with us.

"The grief for [Carson's death] … is different," Foy said. "But the scars from Kristin Lodge-Miller's murder are still with us."

When Two Worlds Collide

Carson, 22, hailed from a well-off community in Athens, Ga., and boasted a long list of academic and leadership awards, including being named a Morehead-Cain Scholar, an award that came with a full scholarship to UNC.

But just nine miles away from where Carson's body was found, the two young men now charged with her killing lived a polar opposite existence in the neighboring city of Durham. While Carson's academic career was taking off, her alleged murderers, Demario James Atwater, 21, and Laurence Alvin Lovette, 17, were keeping busy on the streets.

Atwater and Lovette, who are both black, dropped out of the same high school in Durham after their sophomore years, and both have extensive rap sheets. And as of last week, both now face charges of first-degree murder.

Lovette, who was subsequently charged with first-degree murder for the Jan. 18 killing of a Duke University graduate student, was convicted of breaking and entering and put on 24 months' probation earlier this year, according to Durham County court records obtained by

Atwater was on probation for a 2005 conviction for misdemeanor breaking and entering, and in 2007, was convicted of possession of a firearm, a felony, according to records.

Just two days before Carson's murder, Atwater was due at a probation violation hearing that could have put him behind bars, but a paperwork mistake postponed the court date, according to a report by The News & Observer.

A Town Mourns, Again

Several residents of Durham and Chapel Hill told that Carson's murder not only re-opened the wounds left by Lodge-Miller's murder, but increased their frustration that the state's legal system is failing.

"People are on edge," said Alice Wisler, whose home Lovette robbed in 2006. "We're extremely sad and in shock that [Lovette] had such a history, yet still slipped through the cracks."

Eugene Brown, councilman for Durham-at-large, said Carson's murder serves as a strong reminder for the weak probation system and the lack of supervision these felons receive.

"This system is not protecting the public," said Brown, who added that he worries prisons have become "graduate schools" for criminals and that probation systems are not upheld, as in Atwater's case. "There are times in the life of a community where you collectively say, 'I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore.' I think we've reached that point."

Brown said Durham is considered the "third tier" in the Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill trifecta because of its large black population and high poverty level.

Durham's black community makes up about 41 percent of the city's population, compared with Chapel Hill, which has only 11 percent of blacks within the city's perimeter. Twelve percent of families in Durham are below the poverty line, whereas Chapel Hill has half that, according to the latest U.S. Census statistics.

Laurel Ellzey, a Durham resident who lives down the street from Lovette, remembers him as one of the staples of the neighborhood pick-up basketball game, and was surprised to learn of his alleged involvement in the Carson murder.

"We feel like we're a nice neighborhood, and we feel like we get along, even though we're very diverse," said Ellzey. "It's certainly not a bad neighborhood."

"Obviously [Carson's murder] helped me to remember Lodge-Miller," said Ellzey, "She was a young, attractive blond in Chapel Hill and her murder was by an African-American teenager."

A juror from the Lodge-Miller murder case, who spoke to on condition of anonymity, noted the similarities between the Carson and Lodge-Miller murders.

"It really angers me. Why are we not doing more to help these young folks who are committing these crimes and have such bad records?" the juror said. "I'm in shock still. How could something like this happen — again?"