Lutz family shares grief over 3 lives taken

LUTZ — A couple of months after her oldest daughter brought home a new man, Barbara Freiberg sat in front of her computer and typed his name.

E-D-W-A-R-D C-O-V-I-N-G-T-O-N

"I just check out all my kids' boyfriends," she said. "They know I do it, too. I just want to make sure who you're seeing. For their safety."

Barbara Freiberg's search didn't reveal that Covington was serving one year's probation for drunken driving and possession of a controlled substance, that he had been arrested three times since January 2006, that he had been hospitalized under the provisions of the state Baker Act after officers found him in his home with three dead, mutilated cats.

"It didn't show anything," she said. "Had we seen that he's been arrested for the things that he's been arrested for, I know Lisa would have never started dating him. I know it. I know it. She never would have let her kids get close to him."

During an hourlong interview with the St. Petersburg Times on Thursday, Keith and Barbara Freiberg didn't want to talk about what they discovered inside their daughter's mobile home Monday morning.

Nor did they want to talk about Edward Allen Covington, Lisa Freiberg's live-in boyfriend, the man Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies say confessed to "choking, beating, stabbing, dismembering and mutilating" her and her two children and killing their family dog.

Covington is being held at Falkenburg Road Jail "in confinement and under observation," said sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter. He's charged with three counts of first-degree murder, three counts of abuse to a dead human body and cruelty to an animal.

The Freibergs wouldn't even call him by name. The "monster," her father said.

They wanted to talk about Zachary, 7, and how much he loved his Mimi and Doodlelu — names he gave his grandmother and grandfather.

And Savannah, 2, who had just figured out how to use the potty.

And "I want to focus on Lisa," her mother said.

• • •

Lisa Freiberg was born Oct. 6, 1981. She was the first of the couple's three children, which include Shawn, 24, and Ashley, 21. Her parents say Lisa was a clone of her dad and, appropriately, a daddy's girl.

As far back as they can recall, Lisa was fascinated with animals. "It was like it was born in her," her mother said.

One time, during a vacation at her grandfather's home in Michigan, she brought a handful of frogs to her parents. "Had to keep the little frogs in a jar for a day or two and turn 'em loose," Keith Freiberg said.

When she was 16 and had saved up enough money from babysitting and a loan or two from Mom and Dad, she bought a horse and named him Skylar.

"She'd rather have a horse before a car," her father said. "She could ride downtown. Fine with her. She didn't care."

Lisa wasn't one of those frilly girls. She didn't like to wear dresses and put on makeup. "She was a blue jean tomboy," he said.

She attended Wharton High in New Tampa. It wasn't her first choice. Since she was 7, she had wanted to be veterinarian. She tried to get into Gaither High's preveterinary program on special assignment, but overcrowding thwarted those plans.

At Wharton, she was an average student. "Wasn't bad, wasn't the greatest," Barbara Freiberg said. She had a speech impediment, which made it hard for people to understand her.

Despite those obstacles, she was a member of the school's first graduating class in 2000.

"It was hard," her mother said, "but I did get her to wear a dress for her graduation."

• • •

Lisa wanted to start college at some point, just not right after high school, her parents said.

"Probably a mistake on her part," Barbara Freiberg said. "Once you wait, you usually don't end up doing it."

And that's what happened.

She gave birth to Zachary on Jan. 13, 2001. Savannah came along four years later. Savannah's dad, Tom Fish, was nearly 20 years Lisa's senior.

Her parents didn't like the age disparity, but by then Lisa had moved out of their house and into a mobile home five minutes away. It was her late grandfather's winter retreat, but early Sunday, it became the site of what Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee called the "most horrific crime scene I've ever seen."

• • •

The Freibergs were preparing for Savannah's third birthday, which would have been on Tuesday. They were going to have a party at their E Lake Burrell Drive home on May 24. They always hosted the grandchildren's parties because their back yard was bigger than Lisa's.

Instead, they're making funeral plans at the family's church, Gateway Christian Assembly of God, 14200 Central Ave., Tampa, where Savannah had just started Sunday school two weeks ago. Mourners will gather there at 3 p.m. Sunday to celebrate her life, her brother's, her mother's.

Barbara Freiberg clings to pillows she made for Zachary and Savannah. She outfitted Zachary's with SpongeBob SquarePants and Savannah's with teddy bears.

"I'll never wash it," she said. "I can smell them on here."

Rebecca Catalanello contributed to this report. Rodney Thrash can be reached at rthrash@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5303.

Lutz family shares grief over 3 lives taken 05/15/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 21, 2008 2:51pm]

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