Updated: 6:14 p.m. Tuesday, March 15, 2011 | Posted: 7:46 a.m. Monday, March 14, 2011
Prosecution Calls First Witnesses In UNCC Student’s Murder Trial
GASTON COUNTY, N.C. —
Testimony began Tuesday morning in the trial of a man accused of killing a local college student.
Mark Carver is charged with murder in the 2008 death of 20-year-old Ira Yarmolenko.
Jury selection was completed early Tuesday morning, and opening statements were given.
The prosecution then called its first witness, Dennis Lovelace, to the stand. He is one of the Jet Ski riders who found Yarmolenko’s body near the banks of the Catawba River.
Lovelace described the moment he discovered the body.
“She had a rope around her neck,” he said.
Investigators said Yarmolenko was strangled.
Lovelace’s girlfriend said she saw Yarmolenko's face.
“When I saw the body, I was pretty much in shock,” she said.
The defense pointed out that neither of them saw Carver.
Mark Carver and his cousin, Neal Cassada, were charged with murder in Yarmolenko’s death months after her body was discovered.
Cassada's trial came up first, but he suffered a heart attack and died on the eve of his trial. An autopsy showed he died of complications from heart disease. Cassada's family said his last words were about Yarmolenko and his hope that her real killer would be found.
Carver's murder trial started Monday. His attorney said he has been looking forward to the day for nearly two years.
“He is upbeat and feeling good,” attorney Brent Ratchford said. “He's innocent, so we are ready for our day.”
Channel 9 has learned that the DNA of neither Carver nor Cassada was found on the alleged murder weapons.
Prosecutors said both men's DNA profile was found on or in Yarmolenko's car. The DNA of another unknown person was also found.
“Did they ever take DNA from you?” defense attorney David Phillips asked Lovelace.
“No,” Lovelace replied.
“No further questions,” Phillips said.
In opening statements, the defense asked why Yarmolenko was in such a remote and unfamiliar place and questioned why Carver, a complete stranger, would kill her. The defense called the case a mystery that prosecutors could not solve.