s the trial begins of one of two men accused in the 2008 murder of the student body president of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, there are indications that Eve Carson’s death made this state a safer place.
Carson’s death produced outrage, because of the senselessness of it — she was robbed of money, and then savagely killed instead of being released — but also because the two men accused, Laurence Alvin Lovette, then 17 years old, and DeMario Atwater, then 21, had long histories of criminal and violent behavior, but had dodged incarceration, and were not being properly supervised while on probation.
Atwater has pled guilty and is in prison for life, and Lovette’s trial has just begun.
The fact that Lovette and Atwater were free to menace prompted an investigation that revealed that North Carolina’s probation system had three flat tires — and a change was needed. Three years later, things are improved.
The Raleigh News and Observer recently reported that the system that oversees more than 108,322 convicted criminals has sharpened its crime-fighting tools with better training, a more balanced workload, increased staffing, and enhanced technology.
“We’re working hard to make improvements,” said Tim Moose, director of the state Division of Community Corrections in the state Correction Department. “There have been improvements in all areas, but we’re still a work in progress.” Moose was named director in 2009 during a management shakeup prompted by Carson’s death.
Some of the more tangible improvements: the vacancy rate has been cut from 10 percent to 2 percent, reducing the average workload for probation officers from as many as 100 to about 70; policy has been amended to require a quick arrest of anyone not complying with probation; and probation officers now have access to juvenile records, which had been concealed previously, therefore denying Lovette’s probation officer information that perhaps could have been life-saving.
None of this will resurrect Carson, who wasn’t the first person to die at the hands of someone who had become entangled in our legal system but somehow wiggled free too quickly and easily, and she certainly won’t be the last. But because of the publicity that followed her tragedy, change has come, and the rest of us benefit.
We are confident that news would prompt her to flash that smile that haunted us all in the days following her murder. She was a remarkable and giving person, already on a life’s journey of helping others.
That journey continues, even with her death.