Heartbroken mourners searched soul and scripture Sunday to understand why someone would fatally shoot a popular University of North Carolina student body president and cut short a life with such promise.
For the hundreds gathered at Athens First United Methodist Church, Eve Carson should still be at school, studying political science and biology, teaching science to grade schoolers and planning her next trip abroad.
"We should not be here this afternoon," senior minister Bill Britt said, angry that the 22-year-old was not instead celebrating spring break or getting ready for the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament.
"It is too soon to be remembering the life of Eve Marie Carson," he told the mourners who gathered here in her hometown or came down from the university in Chapel Hill, N.C. Many wore Carolina blue ribbons in her honor.
Carson called ‘a gift to Chapel Hill’
During the nearly two-hour service, there were just as many references to her beauty, intelligence and leadership as to her kindness, dedication to service and concern for others.
"Eve Carson was truly a gift to Chapel Hill," UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor James Moeser said.
Carson was in a four-year leadership development program for undergraduates, taught science at Chapel Hill elementary schools and spent summers volunteering in such places as Ecuador, Egypt and Ghana.
Carson was found Wednesday morning lying on a street about a mile from campus. She had been shot several times, including once in the right temple. Police are searching for a man photographed using her ATM card. A photo expert told the Raleigh Chronicle on Sunday that he believes a second person can be seen in the surveillance photo distributed by police.
In Marietta, Ga., the hometown of slain Auburn University freshman Lauren Burk, a rabbi asked hundreds of people gathered at her funeral to turn their anger into something positive and let the justice system handle her killer.
Rabbi Steven Lebow said Sunday at Temple Kol Emeth that mourners should give blood or donate to charity in her memory.
"It would be easy to give way to our emotions this afternoon because there is a spectrum of feelings broiling and unsettling our souls," Lebow said. "The right thing isn't vengeance. The right thing is justice.
Burk, 18, was found shot on the side of an off-campus road Tuesday night. Her car was found that night burning in a campus parking lot. A man has been charged in her death.
Lebow said the person who took her life committed two unpardonable sins — murder and theft.
"He stole from Lauren's family the trust that all of us have that this is a good world, that Auburn is a safe town. He stole from all of us the sense of security that makes normalcy and life possible," Lebow said.
A white casket holding Burk's body was placed at the front of the sanctuary. Childhood and teenage pictures of Burk were displayed in the synagogue's lobby.
Suspect served in Iraq
The mother of Courtney Lockhart, the man accused of killing Burk, offered an apology to Burk's family in a television interview, saying her son was an Iraq war veteran who was changed after his service.
"First let me say I'm sorry to the Burk family for Courtney taking, taking their child. ... My heart goes out to her family," Catherine Williams said in the tearful interview with Columbus, Ga., television station WTVM.
But she also said her son did not confess anything to her.
Williams said her son, 23, hasn't been the same after serving 16 months in Iraq. She said her son had been living with her in Smiths Station, Ala., since returning from the war.
A Burk family spokeswoman said the Burk family likely did not see the Saturday evening interview.
"The family didn't watch any TV last night. I honestly don't know what their reaction is," Kathy Singleton said. "My heart breaks for anyone that's attached to the whole tragic situation."