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Edward Allen Covington - Florida Death Row
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Thread: Edward Allen Covington - Florida Death Row

  1. #1
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    Edward Allen Covington - Florida Death Row


    Lisa Freiberg and her children, Heather Savannah, 2, and Zachary, 7





    February 1, 2010

    Defendant's mental health at issue in grisly triple-slaying

    TAMPA - A man charged with killing and mutilating his girlfriend and her two children should not face the death penalty because he was mentally incapable of intending to commit first-degree murder, his lawyers say.

    Lisa Freiberg and her children, Heather Savannah, 2, and Zachary, 7, were found slain inside their Lutz mobile home. The family dog was also killed.

    The deaths were so grisly that investigators could not identify the bodies by looking at them.

    Authorities say Edward Covington was found huddled in a closet in the mobile home with blood on his hands, feet and back.

    The killings took place between 6 and 11 a.m. May 11, 2008, and it appeared Covington had stayed in the home overnight, investigators say. He told detectives he killed Freiberg and her children, according to court records.

    Covington's public defenders are asking a judge to allow them to present evidence at trial about his mental condition at the time of the killings and his mental health history, which they say dates to when he was 15.

    A defense court filing says Covington does not intend to use an insanity defense, which would be aimed at seeking a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. Rather, the defense hopes to persuade jurors to convict Covington of the lesser offense of second-degree murder, making him ineligible for the death penalty.

    Covington, the lawyers say, has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder; a therapist who examined him in 2005, when he was working as a state corrections officer, described "classic symptoms of rage and anger, and episodes of severe depression."

    On the morning of May 12, 2008, Covington was admitted to University Community Hospital for a drug overdose. Tests showed he had taken cocaine, acetaminophen and salicylate, another anti-inflammatory drug used for mild to moderate pain, the defense filing states. Doctors also found tricyclics, which is an antidepressant, and valproic acid, a drug used for seizures and migraines.

    The defense says a psychiatrist who examined Covington for the case will testify that Covington's bipolar disorder, combined with the drugs in his system, rendered him mentally incapable of forming the intent to commit first-degree murder.

    The charges against Covington include three counts of first-degree murder, three counts of abuse of a dead human body and one count of felony animal cruelty. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

    Covington, 37, is being held without bail.

    According to the defense filing, Covington tried to shoot himself in the head and was hospitalized under the state's Baker Act when he was 16. The next year, he overdosed on drugs.

    http://www2.tbo.com/content/2010/feb/01/defendants-mental-health-issue-grisly-triple-slayi/

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    February 17, 2010

    Hillsborough deputy resigns after incident involving jailed son

    TAMPA - A detention deputy told his son, who is being held on murder charges in a gruesome triple slaying, to take care of himself so he could give other detention deputies "a good fight," jail officials say.

    Deputy Ronnie Covington was suspended without pay over the phone conversation with his son, Edward, and resigned Jan. 21. He would have been fired had he not stepped down, Hillsborough County sheriff's Col. Jim Previtera said today.

    Ronnie Covington, an 11-year sheriff's employee, was assigned to Falkenburg Road Jail; his son remains in confinement at Orient Road Jail.

    Edward Covington is charged with killing and mutilating his girlfriend and her two children in May 2008.

    On Oct. 14, deputies were trying to move Covington between cells when he became uncooperative and struggled with several deputies, Previtera said.

    On Jan. 1, Ronnie Covington told his son during a phone call to eat well and exercise so he could give deputies a good fight the next time they entered his cell, Previtera said. Jails routinely record or monitor calls.

    The October incident wasn't Edward Covington's first run-in with detention deputies, officials say.

    In November 2008, he threw his medication and a breakfast drink at a nurse, a report states: "Covington then began violently kicking his cell door and refused to stop. He also yelled obscenities at the nurse and staff in general."

    Deputies sought to put Covington in a restraint chair, but he "began to resist by twisting his upper body violently, trying to kick us with his feet as he attempted to bite Deputy (Francis) LaFeir's finger," the report states.

    Covington eventually was placed in the restraint chair, where he remained for nearly four hours.

    That same day, he also allegedly told deputies that "if he would have known it was Deputy LaFeir's finger, he would have 'bitten it off.'"

    In another incident in March, a deputy tried applying chains to Covington, who had a visitor. Covington complained about the length of the chain and told Lt. Susan Ball she could shove the chains up an orifice and that "he would have her badge because this is a violation of his civil rights," a report states.

    Covington, a former state corrections officer, is awaiting trial in the slayings of Lisa Freiberg and her two children, ages 7 and 2, on Mother's Day in 2008.

    Their mutilated bodies were found inside their Lutz mobile home. The family dog was also killed.

    Authorities say Covington, 37, was found huddled in a closet in the mobile home with blood on his hands, feet and back.

    Covington's lawyers said recently that he should not face the death penalty because he was mentally incapable of intending to commit first-degree murder.

    They say has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. A therapist who examined him in 2005, when he was a state corrections officer, described "classic symptoms of rage and anger, and episodes of severe depression."

    http://www2.tbo.com/content/2010/feb/17/171026/hillsborough-deputy-resigns-after-incident-involvi/

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    Lawyer for accused murderer says Covington couldn't help bipolar rage

    TAMPA — A court hearing Friday for Edward Covington, accused of mutilating and murdering his girlfriend and her two small children on Mother's Day 2008, provided a glimpse of his coming defense: Covington had gone off his "mood stabilizer" medications after losing his medical coverage and had fallen into an uncontrollable bipolar rage.

    In the hearing, Covington's public defenders sought to show that Covington, who faces the death penalty, didn't intend to harm his girlfriend, Lisa Freiberg, and her children, Zachary, 7, and Savannah, 2. Rather, he was a manic-depressive who turned violent whenever he went off medications and used cocaine and alcohol.

    Covington, 39, a 6-foot-2, 280-pound ex-prison guard, sat impassively or smiled softly as a pharmacologist and Covington's ex-wife explained the nature of his bipolar rages.

    Dr. Daniel Buffington, medical director of Clinical Pharmacology Inc., said Covington had been prescribed heavy doses of the mood-stabilizing drugs Seraquel and Depakote. Those drugs are usually prescribed when less powerful bipolar medicines don't work.

    Buffington said Covington had stopped taking the drugs for about two months after losing his medical coverage. He got a temporary supply about two weeks before the murders, but Buffington said it wasn't enough time for the medicines to sufficiently take effect.

    The drug disruption, combined with Covington's stress over losing medical coverage and his cocaine and alcohol abuse, created "a perfect storm," said Assistant Public Defender Theda James.

    Covington's ex-wife, Cheri Tate, testified that she had witnessed similar rages while they were married a few years before the murders. She said Covington was nonviolent when he took his medications, but got violently angry when he skipped his dosages and used cocaine.

    On Friday, pharmacologist Buffington said toxicology reports showed Covington had cocaine in his system as well as extremely high dosages of Seraquel and Depakote after his arrest.

    The killings occurred on the morning of Mother's Day, May 11, 2008. The bodies of the children and the mother were found the next day in their Lutz mobile home. They had been choked, beaten, stabbed and dismembered. One was decapitated. The family dog also lay dead.

    The hearings will continue before Hillsborough County Circuit Judge William Fuente in September. No trial date has been set.

    http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/...r-rage/1185714

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    Citing nightmares, Lutz man is excused from hearing testimony in his own triple-murder case

    A former prison guard accused of killing his girlfriend and dismembering her two children successfully begged a judge to let him skip most of a court hearing Monday, complaining that detectives' harrowing descriptions of the victims' remains might trouble his sleep.

    "I don't want to be here at all," said Edward Covington, 41. "No, seriously. I am at a point where things in the past are no longer troubling me. I'm not having nightmares and I want to keep that as long as possible."

    Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente expressed skepticism about the unusual request, warning Covington that he might forfeit opportunities to consult with his defense lawyer about testimony against him.

    But when Covington insisted, the judge allowed him to return to jail a mere three hours into the day-long evidentiary hearing in one of the goriest homicide cases in Hillsborough County's history.

    The episode did not rest well with Barbara Freiberg, mother to the slain Lisa Freiberg and grandmother to Lisa's dead children, 2-year-old Savannah and 7-year-old Zachary.

    "That's what made me mad," Freiberg told the Tampa Bay Times during a courtroom break. "He can finally sleep at night, and he doesn't want to get his nightmares back? Well, what about our nightmares? Our whole family is going to have nightmares for the rest of our lives."

    Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Covington, who is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of abuse of a human body.

    Authorities say he dismembered the children and mutilated Lisa Freiberg's body. The family members had been beaten, choked and stabbed. One body was decapitated. Amid the blood in the family's home on South Mobile Villa Drive in Lutz, Hillsborough sheriff's deputies found Covington cowering in a closet.

    The killings took place on Mother's Day in 2008.

    "I don't know if there's one word that could cover it, but the closest I could come would be 'horrendous,' " retired Sheriff's deputy Donald Custer, the lead detective on the case, testified Monday. Sheriff David Gee said in 2008 that it was the grisliest crime scene he had ever seen.

    Like many capital cases, Covington's has moved slowly through the court system since his arrest, stalled by extensive pre-trial litigation and questions about the defendant's history of mental illness. Fuente said that he expects the trial to at last begin in October.

    The latest sparring between prosecutors and defense lawyers is about due process issues surrounding Covington's arrest. His attorneys are asking that statements he gave to police following his arrest — including a detailed confession that has never been fully disclosed — should be thrown out because Covington was not initially allowed appropriate access to a lawyer.

    Testimony on those issues is expected to continue Tuesday. Fuente is not expected to make a ruling until hearing from a final group of witnesses in March.

    While the hearings' outcome could help him, Covington clearly resented his trip to court Monday. Before testimony began in the morning he could be heard griping to his lawyer about the expectation that he be present.

    A heavy, balding man wearing the same week's worth of beard he had when he was arrested, Covington is jowly and pale. Before the judge excused him from court, he glowered at the deputies who took the stand to talk about his arrest and shook his head at times as they spoke.

    Covington's avoidance of the images connected to the murders is not new. In a portion of his videotaped interrogation that was played in court Monday, he breaks down sobbing as detectives prepare to read him his Miranda rights.

    "I'm afraid," Covington said in the five-year-old video. "The pictures I'm seeing in my head is what's scaring me."

    http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/...is-own/2162969

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    Deputies' actions could jeopardize trial in grisly killings

    On the morning of the day after Mother's Day in 2008, Hillsborough County sheriff's Deputy Juan Lazu stepped through the door of a mobile home on Mobile Villa Drive in Lutz. At his feet were the body parts of a dismembered child.

    Staring at what he would later describe as the most horrifying crime scene of his career, Lazu saw two more mutilated bodies, belonging to an adult and another child. The corpses were those of Lisa Freiberg, 26, and her children, 2-year-old Savannah and 7-year-old Zachary.

    Hiding in a closet, wearing only black underwear, his body covered in scratches and his feet wet with blood, was Freiberg's boyfriend. He seemed disoriented. "What's going on?" asked Edward Covington, a 35-year-old former state prison guard.

    Deputies handcuffed Covington and led him out of the house. On the way, he casually stepped on Freiberg's body. Within two days, he had confessed to the murders, supplying what seemed like a sturdy foundation for an open-and-shut case.

    Yet deputies' actions after their discovery of Covington — most significantly, their decision to bar defense attorneys from seeing him — may imperil the prosecution of one of the grisliest crimes in Hillsborough's recent history, according to newly released court documents.

    The documents show that a high-stakes conflict took place between attorneys from the Hillsborough Public Defender's Office, who asserted they had the right to visit Covington in the days after his arrest, and the Sheriff's Office. Deputies used a variety of legal pretexts to claim they could keep him isolated without legal advice.

    The push-and-pull included a tense exchange in a waiting room of the hospital where Covington was being guarded and an emergency letter from Public Defender Julianne Holt to Sheriff David Gee and State Attorney Mark Ober. But only after Covington confessed did deputies tell him that lawyers from the Public Defender's Office had been trying to see him.

    Covington's defense team is now arguing that law enforcement's decision to sequester him from attorneys — going so far as to register him under a false name at a hospital — violated his constitutional rights, and that his confession should be tossed.

    While the confession is not the only evidence of guilt, its suppression could be a significant blow for prosecutors as they prepare for Covington's October trial.

    The Sheriff's Office insists that the confession was valid, arguing that Covington was not yet officially arrested during the days he spent handcuffed to a hospital bed — meaning that the constitutional guarantee of a defense attorney didn't apply.

    Public Defender Holt doesn't buy that argument, and said Covington's treatment sets a dangerous precedent.

    "You're entitled to an attorney as soon as you're in custody or under arrest," Holt said. "To deny that he was in custody is, I think, very foolish on their part. It flies in the face of common sense."

    Attorneys turned away


    Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Covington, a bald, 6-foot-2 man who has gained significant weight during his nearly six years in jail.

    Covington's attorneys have said he suffers from bipolar disorder and stopped taking his medication months before the murders, subjecting himself to uncontrollable rages. Toxicology reports also showed he was using cocaine on Mother's Day, the day the killings took place.

    Concerns about mental illness and suicide emerged quickly after Covington was taken into custody on May 12, 2008.

    Deputy Joseph Williams testified at a hearing last month that he read Covington his Miranda rights as he pulled him out of the closet at the crime scene. Another deputy put him in handcuffs.

    "All the neighbors were up in arms," Williams said, describing a crowd that had gathered outside the mobile home. "I was afraid of a lynching."

    Covington mumbled something about having swallowed a large number of pills, and a paramedic who examined him said he appeared "psychotic." He was taken to University Community Hospital (now Florida Hospital) in Tampa, where he was listed in the patient registry as "Allen Doe" and handcuffed to a bed, according to a motion by the Public Defender's Office. Deputies were stationed at his room.

    In depositions and court testimony, law enforcement officials have asserted Covington was not under arrest at that point — despite the fact that a deputy had read him the Miranda warning at the crime scene — but simply "detained" as a person of interest while doctors evaluated him.

    "We had two possible things — either an only witness to a crime or a suspect to a crime," retired homicide detective Donald Custer, who at the time was the lead investigator on the case, testified last month.

    On the evening of May 13, the day after Covington was taken into custody, two lawyers and an investigator from the Public Defender's Office showed up at the hospital. Deputies refused to let them into Covington's room or even to tell Covington that they were there.

    Retired sheriff's Col. Gary Terry, who in 2008 was head of the office's investigative division, testified last month that the refusal was simply a matter of hospital regulations.

    "The medical staff had told me he could have visitors if he requested them," Terry said. "He had not requested any visitors."

    'You're not a bad person'

    The next day, Holt sent a letter to Sheriff Gee and Ober, the state attorney.

    "Whether or not Mr. Covington has been formally 'arrested,' he is clearly in your custody, and upon your receipt of this letter I would request that you or your investigators inform him of my interest in him and my legal ability to tender advice to him," she wrote.

    By then, detectives had already delivered Covington to a windowless interrogation room at the Sheriff's Office.

    Custer and another detective, Deputy Troy Morgan, began questioning Covington just before 11 a.m. The first few minutes of the interrogation were played in court last month.

    "You're not a bad person," Morgan told Covington at the outset, as the suspect quietly sobbed. "You're a good person."

    "We're not here to pass judgment on you," Custer chimed in. "We don't even know you."

    Covington was distraught. "I'm afraid," he said hoarsely. "The pictures I'm seeing in my head are what's scaring me."

    They did not tell Covington that lawyers were waiting to see him. They did ask him, in generic terms, if he wanted an attorney present. He said he did not.

    Within two hours, detectives said, he had confessed to the three murders. When he had finished, Morgan told him that public defenders were at the Sheriff's Office waiting to see him.

    "Do you want to talk to them?" Morgan asked.

    Covington, aware now that lawyers were close at hand, didn't take long to think about it.

    "I'll talk to them," he said.

    'A No‑Brainer'

    Sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon declined to discuss the circumstances of Covington's detention and confession in detail, saying the matter would be sorted out in court.

    "There would be no malicious reason to withhold anybody from their attorney," McKinnon said.

    A spokesman for the State Attorney's Office declined to comment. In a terse response to more than 100 pages of motions and exhibits filed by Covington's defense, prosecutors say there was no violation of Covington's constitutional rights and that the defense motion "is an incomplete recitation of the facts."

    Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente will hear additional testimony and arguments on the matter in March. Afterward, he will make a ruling about whether the confession can be presented to a jury.

    The right of somebody accused of a crime "to have the assistance of counsel for his defense" is enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

    "It's a Sixth Amendment issue," said Tampa criminal defense lawyer Todd Foster, a former federal prosecutor and FBI agent. "The question is, when does his right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment attach?"

    Foster, who is not involved in the Covington case, said he was inclined to agree with the Public Defender's Office that semantic distinctions over whether someone in custody has been formally "arrested" shouldn't bar attorneys from access to a suspect.

    Jennifer Zedalis, a former public defender and director of the trial practice program at the University of Florida law school, said she thought sheriff's deputies at least had an obligation to tell Covington defense lawyers were trying to see him.

    She said there's not much room to argue about whether Covington was under arrest in the two days after he was led out of the bloody Lutz mobile home in his underwear.

    "He's handcuffed to his bed, and there are guards there?" She said. "That's a no-brainer."

    http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/...r-case/2166731

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    Defendant's foggy memory of Lutz triple murder complicates possible plea deal

    TAMPA — Edward Covington, the Lutz man charged with a triple murder that law enforcement officials said was among the most horrifying they had ever seen, says he wants to "take responsibility," and plead guilty to the killings.

    Naturally, his attorneys have advised against that.

    But regardless of whether he admits guilt, Covington's recent pronouncements, recorded last month in a phone conversation with his mother from jail, could complicate his already messy case. Prosecutors are hoping to use the recording against him in his upcoming trial, which is scheduled to begin next month, arguing that it constitutes an admission of guilt. Meanwhile, attorneys for Covington are trying to get their clients' words excluded on the grounds that plea negotiations are not admissible.

    If convicted, Covington, 42, could face the death penalty.

    Convington's jail phone call began like many others, with a recorded message reminding him that he was being monitored. Despite this warning, he proceeded to tell his mother that he wanted to take responsibility for the death of his former girlfriend, Lisa Freiberg, 26, and her children, 2-year-old Savannah and 7-year-old Zachary.

    Hillsborough sheriff deputies found their mutilated bodies on the floor of their mobile home a day after Mother's Day in 2008. Covington, a former prison guard, was found hiding in a closet, wearing only his underwear, his body covered in scratches and his feet wet with blood.

    In the court hearings that followed, attorneys representing him argued that he had gone off his "mood stabilizer" medications after losing his medical coverage and had fallen into an uncontrollable bipolar rage. He also tested positive for cocaine after his arrest. For his part, Covington has maintained he does not remember murdering Freiberg and her children.

    "I just want to take responsibility for what happened," he told his mother in the recorded call. "I may not know what happened but I know I'm the cause of it."

    He went on to say that his attorneys, who are with the Hillsborough Public Defender's Office, had advised him not to plead guilty because of the gaps in his memory.

    "They go, 'How did you do it?' I'm like, 'Well, um.' They go, 'Who did you kill first?' I go, 'Um, um. I wanna say this way.' "

    Any account he could give of what happened that day would be a fabrication, Covington told his mother, and he couldn't lie to a judge. His mother said little in response and the transcript ends with her asking him what his attorneys want him to wear for the trial.

    However Covington may have interpreted his attorney's advice, there is no legal rationale for withholding a guilty plea because of a foggy memory, said Clearwater defense attorney Steve Romine.

    "As long as you understand the process and as long as you can make an intelligent and freely entered plea, you can plea to anything in your best interest, whether you remember the crime or not," said Romine, who is not involved in the case.

    He gave the example of a motorist who is charged with driving under the influence, but because he was intoxicated, can't remember how he ended up behind the wheel. Even people who believe they are innocent often plead guilty to less serious offenses in court to avoid a jury trial and high attorney's fees.

    In their motion to include Covington's statements in the trial, prosecutors said that he was offering to plead guilty only during the first phase of the trial, when a jury decides whether he is guilty or innocent of the charges against him. In the second phase, known as the penalty phase, jurors would still have to vote on whether to he should be executed.

    Prosecutors turned down his earlier offer to plead guilty in order to avoid the death penalty.

    http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/...e-plea/2199491

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    Lutz triple murder trial will include defendant's confession, judge rules

    TAMPA — Jurors in the upcoming trial of former prison guard Edward Covington will be allowed to hear his confession to murdering his girlfriend and her two children in 2008, Hillsborough Circuit Court Judge William Fuente ruled on Wednesday.

    Over the protests of Covington's attorneys, who said he was denied access to a lawyer for two full days after he was taken into custody, Fuente found that sheriff's deputies had not violated Covington's rights. Rather, the judge wrote, there was no evidence Covington, or any of his family members, had ever asked for a lawyer. And although lawyers from the Hillsborough County Public Defender's Office tried to visit him in the hospital, the sheriff's deputies guarding his room had no legal obligation to let them in.

    Covington's attorneys would not say Wednesday whether they planned to appeal the decision. His trial, in which prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty, is scheduled to begin Oct. 13.

    Covington, now 42 years old, was discovered in May 2008 standing in a bedroom closet in his girlfriend's mobile home in Lutz, wearing nothing but underwear and covered in scratches and blood. Nearby were the mutilated bodies of his girlfriend, Lisa Freiberg and her two young children. Dog food had been poured into Freiberg's wounds.

    Sheriff deputies handcuffed Covington, read him his Miranda rights, and placed him in the back of a patrol car. They were driving him to be interviewed when he announced he had swallowed more than a hundred pills, so the deputies instead headed to University Community Hospital in Tampa.

    There, over the next two days, public defenders tried to meet with him but were rebuffed by sheriff's deputies under orders not to allow anyone in to see him. Hillsborough County Public Defender Julianne Holt wrote a letter to sheriff's officials, asking to be granted access, to no avail. No one but doctors and law enforcement officials could enter or leave the room, they were told, including Covington, who was being held under the Baker Act.

    In a motion filed last month, Assistant Public Defender Theda James wrote that Covington asked for a lawyer and was ignored. He was never told there were attorneys waiting to meet with him.

    "It was not until after Mr. Covington had given a full confession to law enforcement that he was advised of the Public Defender's attempt to speak with him," James wrote. "These actions constitute a violation of due process of law and equal protection of the law."

    In court documents, prosecutors said Covington had never requested to see a lawyer while he was hospitalized, and he was not formally under arrest, only detained. The security detail and no visitors policy were requested by hospital officials, they said, not law enforcement.

    Earlier this year, when a state appeals court took up a Pasco County case involving similar legal questions and decided in favor of the defendant, it appeared prosecutors' case against Covington could be in trouble. In the Pasco case, Michael McAdams was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for murdering his wife and her boyfriend. Pasco sheriff's deputies had refused to tell McAdams that an attorney hired by his parents was trying to see him as he confessed to the murders and was arrested.

    In his decision, Fuente said there was no evidence that Covington had requested a lawyer's help, and there was no legal requirement to tell him they were waiting nearby. Whether sheriff's deputies should have done so is essentially irrelevant, he wrote.

    http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/...-rules/2201294

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    Trial to begin in 2008 triple slaying

    By Elaine Silvestrini
    The Tampa Bay Times

    TAMPA — The crime scene was so ghastly, the medical examiner was at a loss for words.

    In 12 years investigating homicides, Leszek Chrostowski had never seen anything this awful.

    Lisa Freiberg, 26, and her two young children, Zachary, 7, and Heather Savannah, 2, were killed, mutilated and dismembered, their body parts strewn around their home. The family dog, a white German shepherd, also was dead.

    “I don’t know what can make you ... do something like this to a child,” Chrostowski said during a deposition in which he described the killings and aftermath in horrifying detail. “I don’t even know if I can call it overkill. It’s way beyond this. I mean this — this is just insane.”

    The killings were so horrific, Edward Allen Covington, the man who acknowledges responsibility, was excused from attending pretrial hearings because he said hearing the details gave him nightmares.

    Amid the carnage, furniture was overturned and everything inside the home was scattered.

    By the time Chrostowski arrived, the suspect was gone. Sheriff’s deputies had taken Covington to the hospital after he was found huddling inside a closet wearing nothing but underpants, covered by clothes and stuffed toys, blood on his hands and feet.

    On Tuesday, lawyers will begin picking a jury to decide the fate of Covington, 43, who is charged with three counts each of murder and abuse of a dead body, as well as one count of cruelty to animals.

    The defense plans to argue Covington was insane at the time of the May 2008 killings. According to a defense court filing, before the slayings, Covington, a former prison guard, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, intermittent explosive disorder and substance abuse.

    According to the Mayo Clinic, intermittent explosive disorder “involves repeated episodes of impulsive, aggressive, violent behavior or angry verbal outbursts” in which the sufferer reacts “grossly out of proportion to the situation.”

    Under Florida law, to be found not guilty by reason of insanity, a defendant must prove by “clear and convincing” evidence that because of mental illness, he did not know what he was doing or its consequences, or he didn’t know what he was doing was wrong.

    If Covington is convicted of premeditated murder, the prosecution plans to seek a death sentence on grounds including that the murders were “heinous, atrocious or cruel” and that Covington was in “familial authority” over the children when he killed them.

    Covington had lived with the family less than a month at the time of the killings, according to court filings. The day after his arrest, Covington told investigators, “The kids loved me.”

    Jury selection is likely to be a challenge as the judge tries to find people who can be fair and impartial and who can look at the gruesome photographs and keep their emotions from determining their decision.

    Covington has told his lawyers he wants to plead guilty, according to court filings. The prosecution may introduce a recording of a phone conversation Covington had with his mother from jail. In it, he said his lawyers told him he wouldn’t be able to plead guilty unless he was able to truthfully describe what happened and when.

    “I just want to take responsibility for what happened,” Covington said, according to a transcript of the Aug. 27 call. “I may not know what happened, but I know I’m the cause of it.”

    Referring to a conversation with his lawyers, Covington continued, “They go, ‘How did you do it?’ I’m like, ‘well, um.’ They go, ‘Who did you kill first?’ I go, ‘Um, I wanna say this way.’ ‘You can’t. You have to know.’ Well, I don’t know. I mean I can guess, but that’s about it.”

    Covington’s lawyers argued in a pretrial motion that the conversation should not be admitted because it related to privileged plea negotiations. But Circuit Judge William Fuente sided with prosecutors, who said there were no plea negotiations at the time of the call. In fact, according to the prosecution, the defense had offered to have Covington plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, but the prosecution rejected the proposal.

    The defense also lost a bid to keep jurors from hearing statements made by Covington to investigators when he was being taken to the hospital after the killings, as well as statements he made at the hospital. Covington was taken for treatment after telling deputies he’d ingested a large number of pills — aspirin, Tylenol and Depakote, a drug used to treat seizures and bipolar disorder — in what he told hospital personnel was a suicide attempt.

    During the drive, Covington said, “I can’t believe I did this,” according to Fuente’s order. After Covington was discharged from the hospital, he gave investigators a two-hour interview, which was recorded on video and audio.

    A recording likely to be introduced early in the trial involves the 911 call made by Freiberg’s mother when she and her husband discovered the bodies.

    Crying and screaming, Barbara Freiberg told the operator, “My kids are dead. Oh, my God. Please get somebody here. Oh, my God. Oh, my god ... I went in to my daughter’s house, her trailer, and they’re dead. I saw my grandson on the living room floor, and he’s dead. He’s only 7 years old and he’s dead. Oh, my God.”

    http://tbo.com/news/crime/trial-to-b...ying-20141012/
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    “There are some people who just do not deserve to live,”
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    “Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

  9. #9
    Administrator Helen's Avatar
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    Jurors hear disturbing details about Lutz slayings

    By Elaine Silvestrini
    The Tampa Bay Times

    TAMPA — After brutally killing and mutilating his girlfriend and her two young children, Edward Covington told detectives that Lisa Frieberg “did nothing but love me,” a prosecutor told jurors on Wednesday.

    More than six years after the gruesome murders, Covington's trial began with a concession by one of his lawyers that Covington is responsible for what happened.

    Defense lawyer Michael Peacock argued that the brutality of the killings and what Covington did to the bodies afterward proves he was insane at the time.

    The evidence will show, the lawyer said, “The crimes that Mr. Covington is charged with could only have been committed by someone who's insane.”

    If Covington is convicted of first-degree murder, prosecutors plan to see a death sentence.

    Covington has suffered from bipolar disorder since he was 15, or even younger, Peacock said. He went into a “downward spiral” when he lost his job as a corrections officer and no longer had insurance and the ability to take his medication, the defense lawyer said.

    Frieberg, 26, and her two young children, Zachary, 7, and Heather Savannah, 2, were stabbed, mutilated and dismembered, their body parts strewn around their home. The family dog, a white German shepherd named Duke, also was killed in the

    Mother's Day attack in Frieberg's Lutz trailer.

    Assistant State Attorney Sheri Maxim told jurors Frieberg was a dedicated, single mother who worked as a manager in the stationery department of Wal-Mart and provided a stable, loving home for her children.

    Heather Savannah had her own room with a Strawberry Shortcake blanket on her bed, butterfly and horse decorations and “toys galore,” Maxim said. Zachary's room was a typical boy's room with sport-themed sheets and decorations and a Spiderman chair.

    Maxim said Frieberg met Covington on a dating website and made the “fatal mistake” of allowing him to move in to their home.

    Her mother, Barbara Friedberg, grew concerned when she saw bruises on her granddaughter, Maxim said. She confronted Covington, who told her he must have wiped too hard when trying to clean the girl's face with a washcloth.

    The morning the killings were discovered, Barbara Friedberg went to the house after the babysitter called because Lisa Friedberg had not brought the children to her house like normal.

    When no one answered when she knocked on the front and back doors, Barbara Friedberg used her key. She had to push hard to push the door partly open, Maxim said.

    “The room was in shambles, virtually destroyed,” Maxim said. “She looked down and saw the mutilated and disfigured body of Zachary, her grandson.”

    She called her husband and 911. Her husband, Keith, arrived and went inside the trailer to look for his family, Maxim said. The children's bodies were stabbed and dismembered. His daughter was naked with stab wounds all over her body, blunt force injuries to her face and neck. “She was covered in dog food and blood,” Maxim said.

    First responders found blood in every area of the home, Maxim said, on the walls, floors and furniture.

    They went outside and heard a noise from inside the trailer. Deputies went inside and found Covington inside Zachary's closet, almost completely covered in toys and clothes, wearing only his underwear, with a small amount of blood on his hands and feet, Maxim said.

    As they walked Covington out of the trailer, he “stomped on” Friedberg's body, Maxim said.

    She said the medical examiner will describe the victims' injuries - which injuries came before death, which happened at the time of death and which were inflicted after the victims were dead.

    The girl's legs were broken before she died, Maxim said.

    After Covington was hospitalized for an overdose, he gave investigators a detailed statement about what he had done, Maxim said. He described using a bread knife to stab Heather Savannah in her chest.

    Covington said Lisa Friedberg begged and pleaded for her life. Covington wanted her bank card and car keys. “If you let me go, I'll go out and get them,” she said repeatedly, Maxim told jurors.

    Friedberg “did nothing but love me,” Maxim quoted Covington as saying. “And the kids loved me.”

    Before police arrived, Covington called his ex-wife, Maxim said. He left her a voicemail: “Call me. I'm in a lot of trouble. Call me now.”

    http://tbo.com/news/crime/jurors-hea...ings-20141022/
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    “There are some people who just do not deserve to live,”
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    “Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

  10. #10
    Administrator Helen's Avatar
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    Triple murder trial shocker: Covington fires lawyers, wants to plead guilty

    By Elaine Silvestrini
    The Tampa Bay Times

    TAMPA — Saying he’s responsible for the grisly murders of his girlfriend and her two young children, Edward Covington told a judge Thursday he should sentence him to death.

    “My life means nothing to me,” Covington said. “My life died on May 10,” the day before the killings in 2008.

    Declaring he wanted to put an end to the suffering endured by his victims’ family, Covington upended his own trial by firing his public defenders and saying he wants to represent himself and plead guilty to murdering Lisa Freiberg, 26, and her children, Zachary, 7, and Heather Savannah, 2.

    The victims were killed and maimed on Mother’s Day in 2008 in one of the most gruesome attacks local authorities have ever seen. Covington also is charged with animal cruelty for killing the family dog. Covington was found hiding in Zachary’s closet covered in clothes and stuffed toys.

    “The truth of the matter is,” Covington said Thursday, “I may not understand or be aware of what all happened that tragic day, but I am responsible for what happened.”

    Covington said he’s thought about what happened for the last six years.

    “Even though I may have been temporarily insane or whatever, in the end, I’m ultimately responsible,” he said. “I knew something was going wrong and I failed to protect the people I cared about.”

    Covington’s announcement followed an outburst during testimony from the victims’ mother and grandmother, Barbara Freiberg, who talked emotionally about discovering the scene of the crime after her daughter failed to drop the children at their babysitter’s house. She described having to force the front door partly open and seeing her naked, dead, mangled grandson on the floor.

    Freiberg’s harrowing 911 call was played for jurors, although she was asked to step outside to minimize the emotional impact of the recording. “My family just got murdered,” she says at one point. “How can I be calm?’’

    But it was Freiberg’s testimony about her limited previous interactions with Covington, whom she suspected of abusing Heather Savannah, that enraged Covington, who could be heard calling her a f------ b---- and accusing her of lying.

    “I’m done,” Covington angrily told his lawyers.

    After Assistant State Attorney Jay Pruner objected to Covington’s outburst, defense lawyers asked for time to talk to their client, and the judge called an early lunch recess in the trial.

    When the parties returned to court, Covington told Circuit Judge William Fuente he had fired his lawyers and wanted to plead guilty.

    While Fuente “reluctantly” allowed Covington to serve as his own attorney after making sure the defendant understood the role lawyers play in his defense, the judge said he wanted two doctors to examine Covington and determine if he’s mentally competent to plead guilty before allowing that to happen.

    Covington, 42, has a long history of mental illness; he and his lawyers say he was first diagnosed at the age of 15 as having bipolar disorder, for which he’s been treated ever since. Covington told Fuente he is currently taking three different medications, which he said “help me with cognitive thinking that allows me to be able to function.”

    If not for the medication, he said, “I would have gone off a lot worse than I did earlier.”

    Covington had told his lawyers in the past that he wanted to plead guilty, according to court filings. In a recording of a phone conversation Covington had with his mother from jail, he said his lawyers told him he wouldn’t be able to plead guilty unless he was able to truthfully describe what happened and when.

    Covington’s lawyers had been arguing that he should be found not guilty by reason of insanity.

    Initially after the break Thursday, Covington said he wanted to fire his lawyers because he didn’t feel they were presenting his side in court. “Testimony is being given today that is untruthful and isn’t being addressed,” Covington said. He contended he was closer and more involved with the Freiberg family than was being described.

    Covington also anticipated other witnesses would say things he doesn’t agree are true. His lawyers, he said, were “not holding my interests in their behalf. It’s their job to bring up those inconsistencies and those statements that are false.”

    In spite of his claims of not being strongly defended, Covington said he wanted to plead guilty because it’s “the right thing to do... It’s the only thing to do. It’s the appropriate thing to do.”

    When Fuente strongly urged Covington to reconsider pleading guilty, Covington said it was necessary for “justice for Lisa’s family.”

    “The only thing that matters,” he said, “is, one, justice, and two, closure.”

    Covington also asked the judge to dismiss the jury from the case and proceed to the second phase of the trial during which evidence would be presented to determine if he should be sentenced to death. Covington said he wanted the judge, not jurors to determine his fate.

    Covington said he would present no evidence in his own defense in that phase.

    “There’s a lot of mitigation,” the judge said, referring primarily to the defendant’s history of mental illness. But Covington said doing things his way is “the only way justice can come out of this tragedy.’’

    When the judge tried to warn Covington that releasing the jury doesn’t mean Covington would be more likely to receive a life sentence, Covington didn’t back down.

    “I’d assume you’d sentence me to death,” he said. “It’s what I’d do to myself. It’s what I deserve.”

    He said if prosecutors didn’t seek a death sentence, they wouldn’t be doing their job.

    Fuente allowed Covington to assume the role of his own attorney, saying he has no choice. But the judge appointed Covington’s team of public attorneys to serve as standby counsel to offer him advice.

    The judge said he would arrange for two doctors to examine Covington to determine if he’s mentally competent to plead guilty. If so, Fuente said, he will allow Covington to plead guilty on Friday.

    Jurors, who were not in court for the unusual developments, were told some legal issues had come up and were sent home until Monday. Fuente said that if Covington does plead guilty and is permitted to waive a jury for his sentencing determination, jurors will be notified not to return.

    http://tbo.com/news/crime/triple-mur...ilty-20141023/
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    “There are some people who just do not deserve to live,”
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    “Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

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