GASTONIA, N.C. — Mark Carver was convicted Monday of first-degree murder for killing Chapel Hill native and UNC Charlotte student Irina Yarmolenko in May 2008. He will serve life in prison without the option for parole.
The trial began last Tuesday and jurors began deliberations Friday.
When the verdict was read, Carver's family cried. Yarmolenko's brother, Pavel, thanked prosecutors and investigators. He then spoke directly to Carver.
"I don't know what to say to you. It's very, very hard for us to go on like this and it's all because of you and your cousin."
Carver and his cousin, Neal Cassada, were charged with kiling the 20-year-old. She was found strangled along the banks of the Catawba River. Cassada died the day before his murder trial was scheduled to start and those charges were dropped.
Carver will spend the rest of his life beind bars, and Yarmolenko's family said they will spend the rest of their lives trying to come to terms with her death.
“This has been very hard for us but justice was done here,” Pavel Yarmolenko said.
After the verdict came down, Carver's family friend, Leslie Sellers, still maintained his innocence, calling the ruling an injustice.
"I know these people did not do it. I know there is a murderer on the loose and that we all should watch our backs,“ she said. “It's not right to put an innocent man in prison for the rest of his life and to destroy the lives of two families.”
Prosecutors said DNA placed Carver at the crime scene and that he even knew the girl's age and, more importantly, her height.
“The only way he would have known that is if he was behind her or in front of her strangling her,” Gaston County district attorney Locke Bell said.
Carver's attorneys plan to appeal.