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Authorities identify 'key players' in Lutz triple slaying

LUTZ — Lisa Freiberg's mom worried after she heard nothing on Mother's Day.

She broke into her daughter's locked mobile home Monday morning to find her daughter and two grandchildren, Heather Savannah, 2, and Zachary, 7, and the family's dog dead, mutilated and dismembered.

One person was decapitated.

Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee released this information about the gruesome slayings on Tuesday afternoon.

No one has been charged, and officials have not mentioned a motive, but Gee said all the "players'' have been identified and investigators are confident no killer remains on the loose.

Deputies found Freiberg's live-in boyfriend under a pile of clothes in a closet at the home. He told them he had ingested something and remains under guard at University Community Hospital, Gee said.

Gee said the killer used more than one weapon, and the slayings occurred early Sunday.

Freiberg shared the mobile home at 1918 Mobile Villa Drive S with her boyfriend, Edward Covington, according to his father, Ronnie Covington, a Hillsborough sheriff's detention deputy at Falkenburg Road Jail.

Edward Covington, 35, told his probation officer about his relationship with the young mom. His father said the couple met online.

Covington was serving one year's probation for drunken driving and possession of a controlled substance, according to the state records.

He also was previously hospitalized under the provisions of the state Baker Act after officers found him in his kitchen with three dead, mutilated cats.

Before his DUI conviction, Covington had worked as a state prison corrections officer for a decade and interned at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office in 1999, according to sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter.

In his time as a corrections officer, he received a 15-day suspension for using unnecessary force on an inmate and another suspension for failing to comply with handcuff procedures.

Covington left his job with the prison system in January 2006. Since then, he has been arrested three times, most recently in December on a worthless check charge, state records show.

In February, he told his probation officer, Stephanie Phelps, that he needed to stay overnight with Freiberg, his girlfriend, to get a ride to work. At the time, he was living in a trailer.

Covington moved in with the family in April. He was unemployed and had been laid off from his job because he missed work and was slow, according to his probation file.

Just two days before the bodies were discovered, a probation officer inspected the home. Freiberg was making lunch for the kids in the messy home. Covington told the officer his girlfriend was a "pack rat and they were working on cleaning the house."

The report ends with this observation: "No problem or concerns noted at present time."

On Monday afternoon, Covington's father told the Times his son was an "ordinary person."

A Tampa police report, however, outlines accusations that he mutilated and killed three cats, smashing one's skull.

In January 2005, Tampa police went to his home after receiving a worried call from his father.

Officers found Edward Covington on the living room floor. "I don't want to die like this," he told them, crying, a police report said. He was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital under the Baker Act.

In his kitchen, police wrote, they found three dead cats that "appeared to be mutilated.'' He was never prosecuted. Prosecutors would not comment, and Covington's family declined to discuss the incident.

In the report, Ronnie Covington told police his son was manic depressive and bipolar.

Freiberg's parents, who live near the mobile home, also have declined to speak with reporters.

Friends and neighbors say she was close to her parents, who visited often to help with yard work and to play with their grandchildren.

Freiberg doted on children and animals. She brought home dogs, cats, rabbits and even frogs. And she loved her horse, Skyler, building her own horse stall in the back of the house.

She helped organize neighborhood barbecues, hauling in bounce houses and ball pits, supplied through her parents' party rental business.

The family was popular at Learning Gate Community School in Lutz, where Zachary was a first-grader.

"They were good people," said Lisa Arias, Zachary's teacher. "His mother worked so hard, and his grandmother loved him so much."

Freiberg volunteered in the lunchroom and organic garden.

The family wasn't wealthy, yet Zachary repeatedly brought in coins for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life drive.

"I have it in a bucket," Arias said. "None of the other children did that."

On Tuesday morning, after finding their daughter and grandchildren brutally killed, Freiberg's parents were concerned for the school.

"They were here this morning, at five after 7," said principal Patti Girard. "They wanted to make sure we had heard about it."

Times staff writers Dong-Phuong Nguyen and Bill Coats and researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at vansickle@sptimes.com or 813-226-3373.

Authorities identify 'key players' in Lutz triple slaying 05/13/08 [Last modified: Monday, May 19, 2008 8:59pm]
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