Jurors To Resume Deliberations Monday In UNCC Student's Murder

GASTON COUNTY, N.C.,None — Jurors will resume deliberations Monday in the trial of a man accused of killing a local college student in 2008.

Mark Carver is accused of killing 20-year-old Ira Yarmolenko, a student at UNC Charlotte, in 2008. She was strangled to death near the banks of the Catawba River, investigators said.

SLIDESHOW: Photos Of Ira Yarmolenko

In court Thursday, defense attorneys said prosecutors did not prove their case against Carver.

"Even if you believe all the evidence the state presented, you don't know who killed Ms. Yarmolenko," defense attorney David Phillips said.

In their closing arguments on Friday morning, defense attorneys said Yarmolenko could have killed herself.

"She could reach up and place (the cord) on her neck," Phillips said.

The defense said that if Carver had killed Yarmolenko, his DNA would have been found on the ribbons and cords used to strangle her.

Prosecutor Bill Stetzer argued that the DNA was washed away by water from the nearby river.

Prosecutors said Carver and his cousin, Neal Cassada, saw Yarmolenko arrive in the area where they were fishing. She was there to take pictures, prosecutors said.

They argued Carver and Cassada killed the 20-year-old, put her body in her car and tried to push the car into the river. Instead, prosecutors said, the car hit a stump.

"They murdered this girl and they wanted that car and the girl in the river where they will not be found," Stetzer said.

The defense said prosecutors' theory was a production "related to the Wizard of Oz" and that Carver had no motive to kill Yarmolenko.

"Why in the world would this man, Mark Carver, kill Ira Yarmolenko?" Phillips said.

Jurors began deliberating at about 1:30 p.m. and wrapped up for the day at about 5 p.m. They will resume deliberations on Monday morning.

Carver's trial began Monday.

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.

Previous Stories: March 18, 2011: Closing Arguments To Begin Friday In UNCC Student's Murder March 16, 2011: Detective Describes Crime Scene In UNCC Student's Murder Trial March 15, 2011: Prosecution Calls First Witnesses In UNCC Student's Murder Trial