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Laurence Lovette Jr. Guilty In Murder Of Eve Carson UNC Student Leader

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HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. -- A Durham man was convicted Tuesday and sentenced to life without parole in the slaying of a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student body president.

The jury on Tuesday found Laurence Lovette Jr. guilty of first-degree murder in the March 2008 slaying of Eve Carson. He was also convicted of first-degree kidnapping and robbery. He showed no emotion as the verdict was read.

Lovette, 20, was not eligible for the death penalty because he was a minor when the crime was committed.

For the kidnapping and robbery charges, Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour tacked on an additional 20 years to the end of Lovette's life sentence.

"Mr. Lovette will spend the rest of his life in prison," Baddour said from the bench. "This act has no place in our society. It is not activity that we can allow to occur in our society. The life that Ms. Carson led was too short, but I know that she continues to be an inspiration, not only for her family, but for thousands across this country."

Prosecutors say Lovette, who was 17 at the time, had driven in his mother's car to nearby Chapel Hill with another man, Demario Atwater, to go find someone to rob.

In the early morning darkness, they happened upon Carson, a busy Morehead scholar and much-liked student leader from Athens, Ga., who friends said regularly stayed up all night do her school work. The pair shot her five times, prosecutors said, for her ATM card and because she had seen their faces.

Atwater pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to two life prison terms.

Carson's parents declined to comment after Tuesday's verdict. Lovette's mother and sisters also declined to speak when leaving the courtroom.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall had not offered the defendant any plea deal other than a life term.

"We knew we had really strong evidence," Woodall said. "I trusted the jury and felt like we'd get a conviction."

Lovette's lawyer, Karen Bethea-Shields, filed notice of her intent to appeal the verdict. She said her client was prepared to be handed a life sentence.

"There were some very difficult facts," Bethea-Shields said. "We were realistic about it."

According to prosecutors, Lovette and Atwater kidnapped Carson at gunpoint and drove in her Toyota Highlander to a nearby teller machine. The surveillance camera captured an image of a man witnesses later identified as Lovette using Carson's debit card to withdraw $700, the maximum daily limit on Carson's account.

Prosecutors say they drove to Durham to attempt a withdrawal from another ATM before returning to a secluded neighborhood near the UNC campus. Carson was forced from the car and shot four times with a .25 caliber pistol, according to her autopsy report. She would have still been conscious and aware, the medical examiner testified, when she suffered a last blast to the temple from a sawed-off shotgun.

Her body was left in the street.

Graphic photos of Carson's corpse, including her disfigured face, were shown to the jury.

The seven men and five women on the panel deliberated less than 3 hours before handing up their verdict. The jurors declined to comment following their decision.

Though satisfied with the verdict, Woodall stressed that no action of the legal system could mitigate the tragic loss of a young woman with so much potential.

"When you learn about Eve and you meet her family, you understand what an extraordinary person she was. But she was also a college student. She could have been the girl from the next dorm. We all saw our daughters and nieces in her."

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Follow AP writer Michael Biesecker at twitter.com/mbieseck