Lovette trial witness: ‘I lied’

Jul. 21, 2014 @ 07:22 PM

A witness in the murder trial of Laurence Lovette testified Monday that he falsely told police after the slaying of a Duke University graduate student that he had been with Lovette that night.

Phillip Maybrey said he lied repeatedly to Durham police investigators who were questioning him about the 2008 fatal shooting of Abhijit Mahato.

After telling Assistant District Attorney Jim Dornfried on Monday that his memory was fuzzy about what he had said to investigators, prosecutors played an audiotape of the exchange out of the jury’s presence. In it, Maybrey tells police he was with Lovette the night of the homicide, but says he didn’t follow Lovette into Mahato’s apartment. He said that after Lovette went inside, he heard a gunshot.

But during questioning by Dornfried, Maybrey said his story to police was a lie.

Dornfried: “Did you tell police that (Lovette) approached Mr. Mahato?”

Maybrey: “Yes.”

Dornfried: “Where were you when he approached Mr. Mahato?”

Maybrey: “I lied and said I was outside of the car.”

Dornfried: “Had you been smoking anything at that time?”

Maybrey: “I’m pretty sure I was.”

Dornfried asked Maybrey if he had brought his sawed-off shotgun with him that night.

“I wasn't there, sir,” Maybrey said.

“Did you tell police you were there?” Dornfried asked.

“Yes, I lied and said I was there,” Maybrey answered.

Maybrey said he realized he had put himself  “in a bad position” by lying to police.

“You’re afraid of going to jail, isn’t that right?” Dornfried asked.

“I don’t want to go to jail,” Maybrey said.

Maybrey currently faces no charges, but Dornfried made it clear that prosecutors offered him no immunity for testifying, leaving open the possibility of a future case against him.

Maybrey is the brother of Demario Atwater, who along with Lovette is serving a life sentence without parole for the 2008 murder of Eve Carson, student body president at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

His sister, Tikoya Maybrey, had been subpoenaed to testify Monday, but failed to show up. Presiding Judge Jim Hardin issued an order for her arrest and set bond at $10,000.

In other testimony Monday, former Durham police investigator Art Holland said three ATM withdrawals totaling $520 were made from Mahato’s savings account early on the morning of Jan. 18, 2008. That was more than 21 hours before friends found him fatally shot at Anderson Street Apartments near the Duke campus.

Holland said just over $5 remained in Mahato’s savings account, but that his checking account – apparently untouched – had a balance of more than $4,000.

He said that a security video of an ATM on University Drive showed what looked like a light-colored Mercedes pulling up at the time of the withdrawals and staying about three minutes.

The first withdrawal was at 2:12 a.m. for $200, the second at 2:13 a.m. for $60 and the third at 2:14 a.m. for $260, Holland testified.

Prosecutors believe Lovette forced Mahato to make the withdrawals before returning him to his apartment and shooting him in the head.

Also Monday, a retired crime scene investigator testified that when she saw Mahato’s body at his apartment about midnight on Jan. 19, 2008, she found a fired bullet under his head, and a bullet casing and broken eyeglasses nearby.

The investigator, Rebecca Waller, said Mahato’s body was in a hallway with his legs crossed at the ankles and blood near his head.

Waller said she tried to get fingerprints from the scene, but could not make an identification.

She later went to the Duke School of Engineering Annex, where Mahato, a native of India, was a student and had a desk. She found a passport there, as well as a laptop computer, camera and a Best Buy receipt for an iPod.

Lovette, 23, is charged with robbery and first-degree murder in the death of Mahato. If convicted, he could get life in prison with or without parole.