Investigation continues into Covington murder

Executive assistant to CoH pastor was known as courteous, fair and always trusted

Chism-Cazarez-Thomas-Covington

Lee Covington (right) with Cathedral of Hope’s Chris Chism, left, and the Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas. (Courtesy Barb Nunn/2nd2Nunn Photography)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Lee Covington, 54, was found dead in his condo by a friend late Friday afternoon, July 7.

Covington was executive assistant to the Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas at Cathedral of Hope, and had worked for the church for more than 10 years. He was first hired by the Rev. Jo Hudson as a receptionist. Hudson then promoted him to his current position, and he served the Rev. Jim Mitulski, interim pastor, in the same position.

A friend called police after finding Covington dead inside his locked home. The friend told police to look for a Rolex watch, car and house keys and a cell phone, and according to police, all of the items were missing from the home.

Police spoke to neighbors who said they had written down the license plate number of a suspicious man they saw walking in the complex. While police were processing the crime scene, neighbors saw the same man return, this time driving a U-Haul.

The license plate number led police to Yevin Rushing, 22. On Saturday, they brought Rushing to police headquarters as a person of interest. Rushing waived his Miranda rights and agreed to talk to police, admitting that he met Covington on Craigslist and that he was at Covington’s condo on Friday.

After police found a Rolex watch in Rushing’s car, he claimed Covington gave him the watch during an earlier visit.

Although the police report is heavily redacted and detectives have not released additional information while the investigation continues and to protect “the privacy of the victim,” Rushing also had Covington’s keys. He apparently locked the door behind him as he left the condo and, presumably, planned to continue the robbery when he returned with the U-Haul, not expecting the body to be found that quickly or for neighbors to have been so observant.

After the medical examiner performed an autopsy and declared the cause of death “homicide due to suffocation and affixation,” police arrested Rushing for capital murder. He is being held in Lew Sterrett on $500,000 bond.

In honor of Covington, who was a beloved figure at Cathedral of Hope, many people wore bowties to Sunday morning services at the church. Covington always wore a bowtie when he was at the church.

Mitulski, who served as interim pastor of Cathedral of Hope after the resignation of Hudson, said his success at the church was largely due to Covington. He said he relied on Covington’s personal and professional support.

“I came to work at the cathedral at a delicate time in its history, a transition time after serious conflict that had been many years in the making,” Mitulski said. “I didn’t know anybody very well, and I needed someone who I could trust and who the various estranged parties also trusted. Lee proved himself time and again to be a person of impeccable integrity and a natural ambassador and bridge builder.”

Because people trusted Covington, Mitulski said he was able to connect with people he wouldn’t have otherwise been able to meet. Covington, he added, treated people courteously and fairly, even if they were not always polite with him.

“He was calm, and helped me navigate some of the cultural ways of Texas and southern culture that were new to me as an outsider,” Mitulski said, calling Covington “the through line that kept the cathedral running.”

When he heard Covington had been murdered, Mitulski said, “I held it together for a day, and last night I went to a gay church in Boston where I felt I could be myself and I cried and cried.”

Hudson said she hired Covington to be the front desk receptionist after he retired from another job. She said he loved the church and wanted to give something back. She described Covington as a cordial, kind and good man who was professional and “could handle difficult situations.”

Hudson said after her administrative assistant left, the position stayed vacant for awhile because she wasn’t sure how to fill it. “Then I walked in the church one day and there he was, right in front of my eyes,” she said. “So he moved upstairs.”

Hudson said she and Covington quickly synched their work patterns, and “he was always at my right shoulder. He was there with me before and after worship.”

Covington had a knack for making sure everyone’s needs were taken care of, Hudson said. When someone would come up to the pastor to tell her about an upcoming hospital stay or a sick relative, Covington reminded her and made sure she followed up.

“I’m heartbroken over this,” Hudson said. “I will miss him a lot.”

Cazares-Thomas, calling Covington an incredible man, said, “I’ve been in Dallas two years. I never would have gotten into the community as well as I have without his assistance. He always made sure I was in the right place at the right time with the right information.”

He said he didn’t know how to replace him, but then quickly corrected himself and said he couldn’t really replace him.

Mayor Mike Rawlings called Cazares-Thomas to express his condolences as have religious leaders from around the world.            

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 14, 2017.

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