VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – West Haven, Connecticut was in the rearview mirror for Marie Covington and her family of four. In 2015, a snapshot captured their new life in their new hometown of Virginia Beach.
Other family members had already moved south and Covington was reportedly joyful as she reconnected with loved ones.
Over the years, the children adapted to life in the seaside resort while their mother flourished as a trusted employee at a Wawa store on Holland Road.
Their aunt, Pauline Nelson, pictured with them in the 2015 photo, was watching Sunday Night Football when she learned of the tragedy involving Covington whose relatives were named Lizzy.
“Marie’s face, Lizzy’s face, was right there on the news. I quickly called my older sister and said, Letha, Lizzy is dead? said Nelson.
Court documents say that on the night of Wednesday, August 18, Gary Morton was driving Covington’s car when he abducted her from his home on Thalia Trace Drive.
The following day, family members filed a missing person report and on Saturday morning the victim’s daughter contacted 10 On Your Side to complain about how the police responded to the family’s concerns.
Covington, 18, wrote: “My mum was abducted Wednesday night after a domestic violence incident and the cops did nothing at all. I didn’t even look in his room where the incident first happened. And the cops looked us in the face and said there was nothing they could do…”
In an exclusive interview, 10 On Your Side’s Regina Mobley asked Nelson about the Virginia Beach police response.
Regina Mobley: Do you think the police department should have sent out a bulletin to the whole area to be on the lookout for this car [ a 2016 Ford SUV] maybe carrying two people?
Pauline Nelson: Yes, yes absolutely, but I have the impression that he should never have been released.
Criminal records show that over the years, Morton has faced allegations of abuse against three women. In September 2021, Morton was released on bail with a case still pending.
After Covington was missing for three days, state police, at the request of Virginia Beach police, issued an Ashanti alert Saturday night. Less than two hours later, the mother-of-four was found dead on Galt Street in Norfolk.
While Nelson learned of the tragic news via television, a woman who says she is the mother of Morton’s 8-year-old daughter says she learned of the tragedy via social media.
“I saw one of them online.[Covington’s] family members posted a pic of Gary and I freaked out,” said Diedra Neumeister who says she met Morton in 2012 when he was a cook at a popular sports bar in Norfolk. She got pregnant in 2013 and the child was born in 2014.
“I was like oh my God, he’s the father of my child; I was like he did that,” Neumeister said in a moving interview outside his Virginia Beach apartment.
“And then when I saw he was in custody for second degree murder, I said oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. Now I have to tell my child that his father is a murderer,” said Neumeister, a former member of the US military.
Innocent until proven guilty, Morton is scheduled to appear in court Thursday for the first of several hearings on charges in three cities, including kidnapping, unlawful possession of firearms and driving police in a high-speed chase. .
At Thursday’s hearing, Morton will face charges of use of a firearm and second-degree murder in the death of Marie Covington.
Neumeister told 10 on Your Side that she intended to attend the hearing.
“I just want to be there to support the family and I just want to know he’s going to be sidelined for life because no one deserves it,” Neumeister said.
A memorial service is scheduled for Sunday, August 28 at 3:00 p.m. at First Baptist Campostella located at 1510 Conoga Street in Norfolk.
Pastor Tyrone Jackson told 10 On Your Side that more services are planned for Covington’s hometown of West Haven, Connecticut.
The Covington kids posted a GoFundMe page to help with expenses.