March 2008


“Murder does not come often to Chapel Hill” sums up what I’ve heard frequently today in the wake of Eve Carson’s tragic death.

The Mayor said it. WCHL’s Ron Stutts and Natasha Vukelic repeated the sentiment on my drive home. Chief Curran, at the 5:30 CHPD, said it was one reason Eve Carson remained unidentified for some time.

Murder, at least for now, does appear to come infrequently to Chapel Hill but it does come, and more often than our media and elected leadership admit. I’ve lived here for nearly two decades – been around Chapel Hill for nearly three – and no matter how much I want our community to be and to be seen as safe and secure, our brushes with serious crime are coming more frequently and often more violently.

In the last few weeks, two domestic disputes, one in Northside and one at Carrboro’s Carrboro Plaza ended in the murder of two of our local citizens.

Not to diminish the Carson’s terrible loss, but where was our community’s outrage, sorrow, grief and calls-to-action for the deaths of 51 year-old Marshall Ralph Brown (shot in the back by stepson 27-year-old William Albert Stroud) or 59 year-old James Imonti ( by his 65 year-old father-in-law)?

Was it because Eve Carson’s death was apparently random, not as mundane as long simmering family disputes? Was her death any more random or less tragic than those of the 2005′s murder of the Sapikowski’s, blasted by their son over an argument about his grades and a girlfriend? Brutal, terrible but so was that of 2006′s Kedrain Swann’s at the ill-fated Avalon night club.

Was it that she was young, accomplished and so full of promise and these folks seem to have made less of splash in our local community?

“Murder does not come often to Chapel Hill” comes from Sylvia Colwell’s analysis of the troubling media coverage of another Chapel Hill murder of young woman of great promise.

July 15, 1993, roughly 6am, Kristin Lodge-Miller, 26, a speech therapist with a promising future was gunned down on Estes by 18 year-old Anthony Georg Simpson. Simpson pumped 5 bullets into Kristin, the final a head shot as she lay dying on the side of Estes [B on MAP]. He didn’t care that morning commuters saw his callous act.

Random, brutal, senseless.

This happened a short distance from where my wife and I lived. The murder, the ensuing media circus and the trial stirred ire within our community. There were calls to regulate or ban handguns.

What lessons were to be learned?

In the years since, folks, as is natural, have forgotten Kristin. The informal memorial of flowers and mementos decorating the shoulder of Estes was removed. The remnants washed away. Her friends and few others seem to remember or care about that Chapel Hill murder anymore.

I still remember though.

Is there anything to learn from Eve’s death? Chancellor Moeser’s kind comments this afternoon [MP3] made clear there was plenty to learn from Eve’s devotion to the “Carolina Way”. But what of her death?

I know one lesson to take away from today’s commentary. Chapel Hill is changing.

Random acts of violence and simmering domestic disputes that chaotically flare into fatal confrontations are nearly impossible to prevent but complacency does a disservice to our community. As the story of Ms. Carson’s death unrolls, I hope what the world will see a realistic Chapel Hill.

Maintaining the pretense, especially in the face of so many near misses these last few years, is also disservice to folks like Eve, James, Marshall, Kedrain, Kristin.

[UPDATE 5:31pm] Over at the impromptu memorial behind the “Y”, WTVD 11 is reporting that the SUV has been found and is currently being processed by the CHPD crime unit.

[UPDATE 5:50] Further coverage from 1360 WCHL.

[UPDATE: 6:16PM] The Chancellor’s remarks via 1360WCHL.com here [MP3].

ORIGINAL POST

The young woman found fatally shot on the corner of Hillcrest Road and Hillcrest Circle [MAP + street view] around 5 a.m. Wednesday, Mar. 5th as Eve Carson, UNC’s 2008 Student Body President.

I had the pleasure of meeting Eve during last Fall’s election, she seemed to be a real champion of the “Carolina Way”.

Photo: DTH

This afternoon Chancellor Moeser and a crowd stretching from the North end of Polk Place nearly to Wilson Library paid their respects to this will liked and highly praised member of UNC’s student body. After the Chancellor’s remarks, one of the largest, quietest crowds I’ve ever seen assembled at UNC gave more than the asked for minute of silent contemplation. A few moments later the UNC bell tower played “Hark the Sound”, a song Chancellor Moeser described as “Eve’s favorite”. [MP3]

An informal memorial is setup next to the rear of the Y fronting Polk Place [MAP].

The Chapel Hill Police Department (CHPD) have said that Ms. Carson was driving “a blue 2005 Toyota Highlander with a Georgia license plate AIV-6690.” (CHPD Press Release)

Yesterday morning at approximately 5:00 am, Chapel Hill Police responded to reported gunshots in the area of Davie Circle. Officers checked the area and located an unidentified female 18-25 years of age lying in the intersection of Hillcrest Drive and Hillcrest Circle.

This morning at approximately 9:00 am a positive identification of the victim was made by police investigators and the office of the medical examiner. The victim has been identified as Eve Carson age 22, a UNC senior and current UNC student body president. Eve was a resident of Chapel Hill and a highly regarded member of the university community. Our condolences go out to the Carson family and the entire university community that knew Eve.

The police department has issued a BOLO for the victim’s vehicle that is believed to have been taken during the crime. The description of the vehicle is as follows: A blue 2005 Toyota Highlander with Georgia plate AIV-6690.

This investigation is on-going and the Police Department are seeking leads and continuing to urge anyone with information about this crime to call the Chapel Hill Police Department at 968-2760 or Crime Stoppers at (919) 942-7515.

We will have another update scheduled for 5:30 to discuss any new developments.

Here is a copy of the current standard Georgia license plate (the style wasn’t described by the police, here are other possible versions).

The standard 2005 Highlander looks something like this:

Here’s a 2005 blue Highlander on Craig’s List with some better angles. Further images available via Google images.

The Daily Tar Heel is leading the coverage here, here, this video of the news conference and information on this evening’s Pit memorial.

The Herald Sun has this update.

The Chapel Hill News’ ‘blog Orange Chat has this from Chancellor Moeser.

Dear Carolina Students, Faculty and Staff,

I am so sorry to tell you that Chapel Hill Police have identified the victim of this week’s shooting as Eve Carson, our student body president, trustee, wonderful person and great friend. We are deeply
saddened and numb with grief.

I would like for us all to gather this afternoon on Polk Place at 3 p.m. to remember Eve and to grieve together. We will plan a full memorial service at a later time. For now, it is important that we pause,
contemplate our loss and give each other support.

We encourage students, faculty or staff who feel they need assistance to contact the Office of the Dean of Students (966-4042) or Counseling and Wellness Services (966-3658). Counselors will be available at the Upendo Lounge at the Student Academic Services Building and Room 2518 A/B in
the new addition at the Carolina Union until 11 p.m. this evening (Thursday, March 6, 2008). Resident advisors in campus housing and Granville Towers are also available to be of assistance and support.

I know how difficult it will be to begin to comprehend something so tragic. Please, as you gather your thoughts and prayers, think of Eve’s parents, family and friends.

I hope you will join us this afternoon on Polk Place.

I’m confident that Chief Curran will give our police department’s full attention to this tragic crime.

Yes, this event appears to be a random act and, thus, not easily prevented but, with two murders and a violent robbery [Pine Knolls] a few weeks apart, we are reminded, once again, that the complexion of crime in Chapel Hill is changing.

I’m concerned that attention today’s and these other recent incidents, just like the attention brought by the club shootings Downtown, will fade with time and that our community would have missed an opportunity to discuss how we best address a growing problem.