DURHAM, N.C. — The state rested its case late Friday afternoon in Laurence Lovette’s murder trial. The judge also denied a defense request for dismissal of robbery and murder charges. Then, the defense announced it will produce no evidence, according to WTVD-TV.
Earlier, a Chapel Hill Police Department investigator testified that the key witness in the Laurence Lovette murder trial knew details about the Abhijit Mahato and Eve Carson murders that the public did not know.
The testimony came as prosecutors worked to establish the credibility of Shanita Love – who defense attorneys say is not believable.
Lovette is on trial in the Jan. 2008 murder of Mahato – a Duke University graduate student. He and Demario Atwater are already serving life sentences for the March, 2008 murder of UNC student body president Eve Carson.
Love is Atwater’s former girlfriend, and has already testified she heard Lovette admit to robbing and then killing Mahato.
Lovette’s defense maintains Love’s story changed under police pressure and the promise she wouldn’t be charged for helping to get rid of the weapons used in the Carson case.
But on the witness stand Friday, Investigator Celisa Lehew told the jury that Love knew undisclosed details about the Carson case, lending to her credibility.
“She told us that Demario Atwater told her that Eve had been studying,” Lehew told the jury. “She told me Eve had been in the back seat when ATM surveillance video had been taken.”
Lehew said Love knew Carson’s account had a remaining balance of $9,000 and that she had not been sexually assaulted during the kidnapping and robbery.
She told the jury that Love also knew the fatal head wound was at the hands of her then-boyfriend. Lehew’s testimony also supports Love’s claims that she was along for the ride when the weapons in the Carson case were destroyed and hidden.
“She stated that she was present when the .25-caliber weapon was broken apart into three pieces and discarded in three different locations in Durham,” Lehew added.
Love’s information also led investigators to the 12-gauge shotgun – called “Baby Guage” by Lovette and Atwater – that was used to shoot Carson in the head – killing her.
Lehew’s testimony drew objections from the defense which has fought hard to keep the Eve Carson case out of Lovette’s second murder trial. Mahato was robbed and murder more than two months before Carson was kidnapped, robbed and murdered.
Prosecutors have tried to show glaring similarities in both cases – including that both victims were driven to ATMs to clean out their bank accounts before they were murdered.
Lehew said Love told her that Mahato was taken back to his apartment where Lovette allegedly put a pillow over his face and shot him between the eyes with a 9mm handgun.
The judge has signed a writ to bring the man originally charged in the Mahato murder to court.
After months of legal wrangling, the charges against Stephen Oates were dismissed. Oates and his attorneys had always claimed it was a case of mistaken identity.
Love testified that neither she nor Lovette knew Oates, but Lovette was relieved when Oates was arrested. Love told the jury Lovette assumed he’d never be fingered in the shooting death of the Duke grad student.
Love’s testimony backed up by the lead investigator in the Eve Carson murder case could convince the Durham County District Attorney to pursue charges against another witness. Earlier this week, Phillip Maybrey, the brother of Atwater, said he lied to police when he said he was at the Anderson Street apartments where Mahato was found dead in Jan. 2008.
Assistant District Attorney Jim Dornfriend told ABC11 the DA’s Office is seriously considering criminal charges against Maybrey connection with the Mahato case. Similarly to Lovette’s case, any prosecution of Maybrey would rely heavily on the testimony of Love. Love has testified that Lovette told her Maybrey accompanied him on the robbery and murder of Mahato.
Despite more than an hour under defense cross, Lehew denied Love received perks in exchange for her story or that she was pressured to tell investigators what they wanted to hear.
The jury will return Monday for closing arguments.