Trial begins Monday in slaying of Duke grad student

Jul. 12, 2014 @ 04:03 PM

The trial of a man accused of robbing and fatally shooting a Duke University graduate engineering student is set to begin Monday morning in Durham County Superior Court.

Laurence Lovette Jr. is charged with murder in the 2008 death of 29-year-old Abhijit Mahato, who was found dead Jan. 18 at his off-campus Durham apartment.

Lovette is serving a life sentence without parole for the 2008 fatal shooting of Eve Carson, student body president at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was 17 at the time of her death.

A second person, Demario James Atwater, 21, of Durham, also was charged with Carson’s death. He pleaded guilty in 2010 to first-degree murder and is serving two sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Lovette was arrested eight days after Carson’s homicide, and police investigators connected him to Mahato’s death.

He pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree armed robbery, felonious robbery and felonious possession of stolen goods. Lovette declined to testify at his trial, and was found guilty on all charges on Dec. 20, 2011.

On Feb. 5, 2013, the North Carolina Court of Appeals vacated Lovette’s life sentence and ordered a new sentencing hearing. The decision was based on a case where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a mandatory life sentence without parole for defendants under 18 at the time of a crime is cruel and unusual punishment.

A resentencing hearing was held on June 3, 2013, and Lovette was again sentenced to life without parole.

In May 2014, the state Court of Appeals upheld his life sentence without parole after Lovette’s attorneys tried again to void the sentence.

Lovette will be represented at the new trial by Durham attorneys Karen Bethea-Shields and Kevin Bradley. The prosecutors are Jim Dornfried and Stormy Ellis with the Durham County District Attorney’s Office.