GASTONIA, N.C. -- Jury selection is under way in the trial of a man accused of killing 20-year-old UNC Charlotte student Irina Yarmolenko.

We got a great case, said Brent Ratchford, defense attorney for Mark Carver.

Carver is charged with first-degree murder in Yarmolenko's death.

Investigators say Yarmolenko drove herself to the Catawba River to take photographs for a class project in May 2008. Her body was found lying next to her car in a remote area along the river. Police say she had been suffocated.

Carver and his cousin Neal Cassada were arrested. Cassada died of a heart attack in October 2010, one day before he was set to go on trial.

Jury selection in Carver's trial began Monday morning. His family and Yarmolenko's family were in the courtroom.

It is what it is. The evidence has been laid out before us for months, said Ratchford.

Ratchford didn't go into details of his case but in 2009 he pointed to DNA evidence under the victim's fingernails that did not match either defendant. He also pointed to lack of DNA evidence on what is considered the murder weapons -- a drawstring from Yarmolenko's hoodie and a bungee cord.

Police say DNA matching Carver and Cassada was found on Yarmolenko's car.

They both entered pleas of not guilty. Unfortunately, Mr. Cassada was not able to have his day in court, Ratchford said.

Cassada's attorney, David Phillips, has joined Carver's defense team.

It was at the request of the Cassada family, Ratchford said.

The District Attorney's office dropped the charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy against Cassada, saying the case would not proceed because of his death.

Cassada's family said they believe that he would have been found not guilty had he lived.

Twelve jurors were seated on Monday for Carver's trial. Two alternative jurors must be chosen before opening statements, which are expected on Tuesday.

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