Police in Alabama and North Carolina have made two arrests in the eerily similar shooting deaths of two female college students, both with connections to Hillel, on different campuses.
18-year old Lauren Burk, a Jewish freshman at Auburn University, was found shot once in the head and left for dead on an Alabama highway, a mile from campus on the evening of March 4. Just 20 minutes later, the fire department responded to a campus parking lot where her 2001 Honda Civic was engulfed in flames.
Courtney Lockhart, an Alabama native who served in Iraq, confessed on March 11 to abducting Burk from campus. Lockhart is charged with murder and attempted rape. Under Alabama law, he could receive the death penalty if convicted.
Not long after Burk's body was found and nearly 500 miles away, in the early morning hours of March 5, 22-year old Eve Carson was found shot in the head in a residential neighborhood not far from her campus. Carson was a senior and the student body president at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her Toyota Highlander was later found abandoned a mile from the murder scene.
Exactly one week later, North Carolina police arrested 21-year old Demario James Atwater in connection with her killing.
They are still seeking another suspect, 17-year old Lawrence Alvin Lovett Jr., who they believe was also involved. Both men are charged with first-degree murder.
Though Carson was not Jewish, North Carolina Hillel's Program Director Sheila Katz says she was extremely supportive of Hillel on campus. "Eve attended several Shabbat dinners and worked intensely for the group's World AIDS Week last semester," Katz explained. Carson's student government cabinet was also comprised of several Jewish students including Andrew Coonin, who is also an intern for Hillel's Campus Entrepreneurship initiative.
In an op-ed piece published in UNC's student newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel, Coonin writes: "I don't know if she knew how important she was to me and my development here at Carolina...She taught me that all it takes is an idea and the willingness to voice that idea...Eve taught me how to lead and have fun....She made things happen; she wouldn't sleep or give up until she found a way for things to work."
In an e-mail to Hillel students at UNC, Katz and her colleagues suggested students light an extra Shabbat candle in Eve's memory, pray for her family, make a charitable donation in her honor, or recite Psalms 23, 130 or 90. Hillel also canceled its evening programming out of respect for Carson.
Since UNC students will be on Spring Break March 8 - 16, a memorial service for the slain student leader is planned for Tuesday, March 18. Carson was buried in her hometown of Athens, Georgia.
Meanwhile, in Burk's hometown of Marietta, Georgia, a memorial service was held at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church (Burk's mother is Baptist) and her funeral will take place at Kol Emeth Synagogue (Burk's father is Jewish).
Rob Kulick, the campus Hillel advisor at Auburn says Burk was not involved with Hillel but was well-known to Hillel students.
"We've sent flowers to [Kol Emeth]," said Kulick, who is also the president of Congregation Beth Shalom in Auburn. "And we will be saying Kaddish for Lauren at tonight's service." A campus-wide memorial service is planned for Monday.
The families of the slain girls live less than 80 miles apart in Atlanta suburbs. Police believe their murders are coincidental and not connected.
UNC Student Remembered as Force for Campus Unity
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