On March 5, 2008, in the wee hours of the morning, something terrible happened. Eve Carson, a young white woman, was kidnapped, robbed, and ultimately murdered by 21-year-old Demario James Atwater and 17-year-old Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., two young black men that were the epitome of thugs. To call Carson accomplished would be an understatement. It would be more accurate to say that she had everything going for her. She was elected Study Body President in high school as well as Valedictorian.
Despite this, her world somehow collided with Lovette’s and Atwater’s sometime after 2:00 a.m. on March 5, 2008. Lovette and Atwater both hailed from Durham, a neighboring city of Chapel Hill. The University of North Carolina is just 8 miles away from Duke, which is located in Durham. They are two of the most prestigious universities in the U.S, yet Durham itself is known as one of North Carolina’s most dangerous cities. Durham and Chapel Hill are a mere 10 miles apart, and yet statistics show a world of difference. The median income is markedly less in Durham, while instances of violent crime are much higher. In fact, over 1700 violent crimes took place in Durham during 2011. The arrests for violent crimes in Chapel Hill, on the other hand, are barely half that figure and encompass the past decade rather than a single year.
The differences between these murderers and their victim are arguably as striking as the disparities between Durham and Chapel Hill. Contrary to Carson, Lovette and Atwater had nothing going for them and nothing to lose. They came from poverty-stricken areas where many of the youth see becoming a “successful” drug dealer as their best or at least most obvious bet for a promising future. They were most certainly from a totally different world than the woman they so brutally attacked.
Carson was an accomplished, educated young woman with $9,000 in her bank account. On the other hand, Lovette and Atwater were so unfamiliar with money that they repeatedly tried to withdraw money from her bank account multiple times a day. They were completely unaware of the daily withdrawal limits to which all accounts are subject. In fact, a Bank of America spokesman stated that they attempted to withdraw money eight times in just one hour. This level of desperation and ignorance is disturbing, and the appalling nature of their crime is downright horrifying. It makes one wonder how many other young people are walking around with this level of hopelessness, a hopelessness that is likely to remain unnoticed until it manifests into something monstrous, destructive, and deadly.
No matter how many times I hear or read about how inhumane they were to Carson, I cringe each time. Witnesses testified about the grueling details that Lovette and Atwater shared with them following the murder and they are truly sickening.
The pair revealed to one witness that they fondled Carson while holding her at gunpoint. She was also forced to accompany them to the ATM as they withdrew money from her bank account. At some point, the two decided that they would murder her. A second witness relayed Lovette’s explanation of the reasoning behind Carson’s senseless murder: she had seen their faces, and they didn’t want her around to identify them.
Worse yet, Carson was aware of the fact that they intended to kill her well before they did so. The witness further stated that, according to Lovette, Carson pleaded with them not to kill her and even begged them to pray with her. Clearly, her pleas fell on deaf ears. Although she begged for her life, Lovette and Atwater shot her with a .25 caliber gun four times. The 22-year-old survived this, however, much to the frustration of her attackers, who ultimately placed a sawed-off shotgun to her head and pulled the trigger.
It is utterly horrifying to think that a pair so young could be capable of something like this. Lovette was barely old enough to drink, while Atwater was only 17—the age of most 11th grade high school students. It’s frightening to think that a high school kid could be so lacking in hope, morals, and a conscience that they could commit an act such as this.
Eve Carson’s murder outraged the nation, and many of Durham and Chapel Hill’s residents used the Internet to vent their distress. The amount of comments regarding the murder was vast, but one, in particular, caught my eye. I came across it on the website for Durham Herald Sun, the city’s local newspaper. The author of this comment wrote that he “knew” that the killers were from Durham as soon as he heard about the crime and wasn’t surprised to find that his assumption was true.
He then went on to voice his with displeasure Mayor Bill Bell of Durham, who had insisted that those who avoid dangerous areas and activities need not worry about their safety. As I recall, this person went on to call the mayor a liar, as Carson was the prime example of a person who met with violence despite avoiding dangerous areas and activities.
I was particularly troubled by this individual’s comments for several reasons, the first of which was their implicit disregard for the lives of minorities. He was outraged at the murder of Carson (as well he should have been) yet seemed untroubled by the myriad of blacks whose lives end in violent crime just because of the area in which they live. His comment illuminated a disturbing tendency in our country. We often ignore, perhaps even accept, murder within impoverished black communities. When the violence from these communities touches people from wealthier or safer communities, however, it sparks outrage and receives the utmost attention.
The comment implied a lack of concern not just for those living in impoverished and crime-ridden black communities, but also for our country’s citizens as a whole. After all, it insinuated the belief that it’s okay for people, even young girls with promising futures, to be murdered in cold-blood as long as it doesn’t occur on his side of the tracks.
Unfortunately, this mindset isn’t uncommon, but it is most certainly dangerous, even to those who believe themselves to be unaffected. It is socially irresponsible to ignore the fact that certain communities possess much higher murder, incarceration, and poverty rates than others. These factors breed violence, among other social ills, and cannot be left to grow and fester. Those who ignore these things tend to think that the issues in these communities don’t directly affect them. However, Eve Carson’s murder is a prime example of the fact that the consequences of these issues can affect anyone regardless of their race, location or socioeconomic status.
To ignore these social ills is akin to someone knowing they have cancer in a certain part of their body but refusing to treat it because they aren’t experiencing symptoms. And, as in the case of the metaphorical cancer sufferer who ignores their condition, the absence of symptoms will not last forever, and our inaction will doom us to destruction.
We can’t continue ignoring the consequences of socioeconomic disparities while focusing on penalizing rather than preventing crime. If we do, the likelihood that we will eventually self-destruct as a nation is high. At some point, we must ask ourselves if continually building more prisons, hiring more police, and staying away from an ever-increasing amount of crime-laden areas is an acceptable way to live.
At some point, we will have to realize that we must all put our heads together to discover ways that we can positively influence at-risk youth. By seriously considering this, we will undoubtedly find ways to empower them and help change the trajectory of their lives. This responsibility doesn’t just rest with us as citizens, however.
Businesses and universities must do their part in developing programs that connect with these kids. Ideally, such programs would help them understand the ways in which continuing education can save them from unnaturally short lives of poverty, desperation, and imprisonment. Last but not least, such programs could provide incentives that motivate them to overcome their demoralizing environments.
Carson’s killers could be publicly stoned to death with hot coals for all I care; their heinous, merciless act makes it all but impossible to feel sympathy for them. In the end, however, reflecting on the assertions that I read following her death, I have to ask myself if we as citizens have failed both Eve Carson and her murderers.