Witnesses take stand, say Gaston Co. man may be innocent in murder of UNCC student

Witnesses say police 'got the wrong man' in Mark Carver case

GASTONIA, NC (WBTV) - We are one step closer to finding out if charges against Mark Carver will be dropped or if he will get a new trial. He’s serving a life sentence for the 2008 murder of Ira Yarmolenko.

Prosecutors say he strangled the UNC Charlotte student along the banks of the Catawba River. His defense team says they’ve never believed he had the IQ or physical ability to pull off the crime.

On Monday, witnesses who took the stand continued to say they too think police got it wrong.

They say none of the evidence seems to add up. Officials have said over the years that Yarmolenko’s body was soaking wet when her body was found yet witnesses who were in the area on the day she was killed say Mark Carver was dry.

Since day one Mark Carver has maintained his innocence.

In court, former Mount Holly Police officer Scott Wright took the witness stand. He was off-duty when Yarmolenko was killed, but he was in the area. He says he saw a light-skinned black man who seemed nervous, sweaty and was walking fast.

Three days after the murder, Wright filed a police report on what he saw. He says officials had him pick the guy out in a lineup. Days later, another person told police they saw a light-skinned black man too, but investigators reportedly never organized another lineup for that sighting.

Wright says after studying Yarmolenko’s death, he believed her strangulation mimicked that of a serial killer. Even though he wasn’t part of the investigation, he took his concern to his co-workers, but he says they didn’t consider his theory.

WBTV caught up with Wright after court, but he didn’t have much to say.

“My testimony speaks for itself,” said Wright.

His testimony is close to that of James Beatty who testified on Friday.

“I think they’ve got the wrong man. I’ve always felt that way,” Beatty said.

Beatty was also on the river that day in 2008. He told police that he saw Carver there after Yarmolenko died and never saw any red flags or signs that he may have crossed paths with a killer.

“He was normal, he wasn’t scared, he wasn’t wet ... nothing was wrong with him,” Beatty continued.

The defense still has more witnesses to get through, one of them being Carver himself. He did not testify in the 2011 trial so a lot of people are anxiously waiting for him to finally take the stand.

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