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Neighbors heard sounds of triple murder in Lutz

TAMPA — Neighbors heard a woman's screams and strange noises the day before a young mother and her two children were found dismembered in their Lutz mobile home, according to records released Thursday.

Edward A. Covington, 36, faces three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his live-in girlfriend, Lisa Freiberg, and her children, Zachary, 7, and Savannah, 2.

Neighbor Kelly Baum said she heard what sounded like a dispute on Mother's Day, May 11.

"I did hear our neighbor girl screaming, and things being tossed around her house," Baum told a Hillsborough sheriff's investigator.

But, she said, "I really didn't think nothing of it because I have heard yelling going on in that house before, about a week or two back."

Shortly after, when she looked over the fence, Baum neither saw nor heard anything unusual, so she "figured everything was fine over there."

Baum wasn't the only neighbor who told authorities she heard something odd, according to investigative records that were released by prosecutors on Thursday.

Ricky Russell, 45, who lives next to Freiberg's single-wide trailer, told authorities he woke up that Sunday to a pounding sound. He looked outside and saw Freiberg's dog lying next to his front porch, so he assumed the dog made the noise, which sounded like a tail thumping against the trailer.

Later, Russell left to pick up a friend. When he came back, he said he heard the pounding noise again but didn't see the dog.

"I said, 'There's that noise that woke me up this morning,' " Russell told the Times on Thursday. He said his friend, Wes Vyner, climbed a ladder to help work on a patio roof and saw a man inside Freiberg's trailer beating something.

"We thought it was the dog," Russell said.

That was between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m., he said. Sheriff's officials have said the killings took place between 1 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Vyner, 48, was interviewed by a detective, but Thursday he declined to discuss what he saw or told authorities.

On May 12 Freiberg's mother went to the mobile home at 1918 Mobile Villa Drive S, after the babysitter called her to ask whether something was wrong. The children, she said, had not been dropped off.

At the mobile home, no one answered the door, and Barbara Freiberg found both front and back doors locked. She unlocked the front door, but couldn't open it because it was blocked by her grandson's body.

Inside the mobile home, deputies said they found three bodies and Covington, hiding under a pile of laundry in a closet. His hands, feet and back were cut and stained with blood, according to court records.

Covington told investigators he choked, beat, stabbed and dismembered the victims and their dog, according to an arrest report. One was decapitated.

Sheriff David Gee has said investigators believe more than one weapon was used in the slayings, and crime scene technicians took more than a dozen knives and two hammers into evidence.

The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office released more than 200 pages of records in the case Thursday, but, pursuant to a court order, withheld about 160 additional pages.

Covington's defense attorney contends making those records public would be inflammatory and jeopardize his client's chance of getting a fair trial.

In response, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Manuel Lopez plans to review the records himself. If he does not order them released sooner, Lopez has ruled they will be made public once a jury is selected.

Richard Danielson can be reached at Danielson@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5311.

Neighbors heard sounds of triple murder in Lutz 08/14/08 [Last modified: Sunday, August 17, 2008 7:28pm]
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