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Mom, 2 kids found slain in Lutz mobile home

LUTZ — The grandmother's screams brought a neighbor running to the scene of a tripleslaying.

"Zachary's dead, Zachary's dead," the grandmother yelled, said her neighbor Tim Kelly.

By Monday night, deputies had not released the names of the family killed inside a mobile home north of Bearss Avenue. Investigators say someone killed a boy, 7, his sister, 2, and their mother, 26, as well as the family's dog.

A 26-year-old woman named Lisa Freiberg lived in the home with her children, Zachary and Savannah, according to records and neighbors.

Deputies interviewed a man found hiding in the home, but they did not release his name. No arrests had been made.

The scene unfolded just after 9:30 a.m. Monday with the grandmother's screams. That's when Kelly came running. From the doorway, he could see the limp body of the boy. He thought he looked like a doll.

"It was brutal," Kelly said.

Soon after, dozens of Hillsborough sheriff's investigators came to the home on Mobile Villa Drive S.

It was an "extremely gruesome scene," Sheriff David Gee said. "There was evidence that a lot of violence occurred inside."

The man found hiding inside the home was taken for evaluation in handcuffs to University Community Hospital. Sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said Monday afternoon that the man's role wasn't clear. She later added that he was not a suspect in the case.

Freiberg's parents live about a 5-minute drive away in Lutz. Her father, Keith Freiberg, answered the door of their house, a tidy home shaded by an oak tree on a well-kept street. He was visibly upset and said that he could not comment about his daughter because he didn't want to interfere with the sheriff's investigation.

Freiberg lived in the mobile home with her boyfriend, Edward Covington, according to his father, Ronnie Covington, a Hillsborough sheriff's detention deputy at Falkenburg Road Jail.

The couple met online and dated for a while, his father said. They had no children together, and Covington had just recently moved into Freiberg's home, his father said.

The father hadn't heard from Covington by Monday afternoon, and he was anxious.

"As far as I know, he's all right," Ronnie Covington said. "Do they think he did it?"

He described Freiberg as a fine, upstanding woman who works at Wal-Mart to support her children.

His son, who had previously worked as a Florida Department of Corrections officer, seemed happy in his relationship. He said his son is an "ordinary" person.

"They were fine this weekend when we saw them," he said. "They were fine."

Deputies were not able to re-enter the home until midafternoon because they needed a search warrant to collect evidence and conduct their investigation of the scene, Carter said. She expected it would take hours to process everything at the home. A judge had to grant permission for the deputies to continue their criminal investigation because the homeowner could not give consent for the search, she said.

Carter declined to comment about how the victims were killed or their injuries. She said that would be left to the Hillsborough Medical Examiner's Office.

Thomas Collard, 15, who lives four doors down the street, used to mow the lawn at the mobile home and helped build an addition onto it.

He said the two children did not have a father figure, so he tried to pick up the slack.

"They both looked up at me. They looked up at me like a big brother," he said, tears welling in his eyes.

Collard said he never accepted money for the work he did, but Lisa Freiberg would show her appreciation by taking him horseback riding.

"She was just there for us," Collard said. "No matter what time of night, she would be there to help me."

He last saw her on Saturday, waving to him as she passed by his house.

"I loved her and those kids," Collard said.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at (813) 226-3373.

Mom, 2 kids found slain in Lutz mobile home 05/12/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 15, 2008 11:07am]
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