Grand Jury indicts Covington in death of 3-year-old

Published 4:38 pm Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Just days after the case against him was bound over to the Grand Jury, an Elizabethton man was indicted on two counts of murder in connection with the death of his 3-year-old stepson.
On Monday, the Carter County Grand Jury handed down an indictment against Demetrius Deshawn Covington, 28, of Elizabethton, charging him with two counts of first-degree murder in the death of Ja’Kari Phillips.
Covington appeared in Carter County General Sessions Court on Friday where he waived his right to a preliminary hearing in the case against him. Judge Keith Bowers Jr. then bound the case over to the Grand Jury.
Court officials anticipated the case would be presented to the Grand Jury during their May 3 session, but the District Attorney’s office proceeded with the case during the session on Monday.
Covington remains held without bond in the case. He was originally arrested in December 2016 on a charge of first-degree murder and aggravated child neglect in connection with the death of the child.
On Monday the Grand Jury also indicted the child’s mother, Ayonjaleea Shametriauna Phillips, 26, formerly of Elizabethton but now residing in Knoxville, on a charge of aggravated child endangerment in connection with the child’s death. The Carter County Sheriff’s Office arrested Phillips on Monday, and she remains held at the Carter County Detention Center under a $100,000 bond.
Both Covington and Phillips are scheduled to appear in Carter County Criminal Court on April 6.
The charges against the couple stem from an investigation by the Elizabethton Police Department in November 2016 into the death of Ja’Kari Phillips.
According to court documents, Phillips called 911 on Nov. 18, 2016, while transporting her son to the hospital and said the child was having trouble breathing. While en route to the hospital the child’s condition worsened and Phillips pulled over to begin performing CPR.
The child was taken to a local hospital and died on Nov. 22 as the result of his injuries, which court documents state were considered to be “non-accidental trauma and were not self-inflicted.”
According to court documents, the child suffered numerous bruises over his face, neck, torso, back, bottom, legs and foot. Court documents also state medical tests revealed the child had internal injuries, including swelling in his brain and a subdural hematoma, which is a collection of blood outside of the brain usually caused by severe head injuries.
Phillips told investigators she had left her son in Covington’s care while she was at work. According to police, she said Covington called her at work and asked her to come home, saying the child may have fallen in the bathtub.

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