TAMPA — Edward A. Covington attempted suicide less than a month before he was accused of killing his live-in girlfriend and her two children.
According to records released by prosecutors Wednesday, Covington told a Zephyrhills police officer on April 19 that he cut his arm with a razor blade because he was sick of suffering stomach pain. He said he had stopped taking his psychological medication two months before because he could no longer afford it.
The officer saw blood throughout Covington's mobile home and hospitalized him under the provisions of the state Baker Act.
May 11, Mother's Day, Covington choked, beat, stabbed and dismembered Lisa Freiberg and her children, Zachary, 7, and Savannah, 2, in their Lutz mobile home, authorities said.
The family dog also was killed.
Covington, 36, remains in jail facing multiple charges of first-degree murder, abusing a dead body and cruelty to animals.
The people around him told detectives they had seen signs of a troubled, angry man in the weeks leading up to the homicides. Co-workers heard that Freiberg's boyfriend started beating her after losing his job. Neighbors heard yelling and things being thrown around in the couple's home.
Freiberg was scared. For three hours one afternoon, she cried hysterically to her children's 17-year-old babysitter that Covington was off his medication and threatening to kill himself, records show.
A week before the killings, the sitter noticed that Savannah had a black eye and swollen lip. The child's maternal grandmother also had photographed bruises and injuries on the little girl.
The evening of May 10, Covington and Freiberg took her children to visit Savannah's father, Tom Fish, and paternal grandmother. Fish met Covington for the first time and found him to be nice and polite.
Sheriff's officials have said the killings took place in Freiberg's mobile home between 1 a.m. and 11 a.m. on May 11.
About 8:30 or 9:30 a.m., a man working on a deck next door saw a man inside the mobile home beating what sounded like a yelping dog, records say.
Cheri Tate, Covington's ex-wife, said she received a voice mail from him at 9:42 a.m.
The former couple had a violent relationship, Tate later told detectives. She got a trespass warning against Covington in Brooksville in June 2007 after one incident. She said he hit her, stole her prescriptions and cussed at her.
But his message on Mother's Day was different.
"He said, 'Cheri, I need you to call me. I'm in a lot of trouble,' " she told a detective in a taped interview a few days later. "And he says, 'Please call me right back.' It was calm, like nothing was wrong or anything.
"It was just smooth. It was empty."
Colleen Jenkins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3337.