VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – West Haven, Connecticut, was in the rearview mirror for Marie Covington and her family of four children. In 2015, a snapshot captured their new life in their new home city in Virginia Beach.
Other family members had already moved south and Covington was reportedly joyous as she reconnected with loved ones.
Over the years the children adjusted to life in the resort city while their mother thrived 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, who loved ones called Lizzy.
“Marie’s face — Lizzy’s face — was right there on the news. I quickly called my oldest sister and I said: Letha, Lizzy’s dead?” Nelson said.
Court documents say on the night of Wednesday, August 18, Gary Morton was driving Covington’s car when he abducted her from her home on Thalia Trace drive.
The next 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 police responded to the family’s concerns.
The 18–year-old Covington wrote: ” My mother was abducted Wednesday night after a domestic violence incident and the cops have done nothing at all. Haven’t even looked in her room where the incident first occurred. And the cops looked us dead in the face and said there was nothing that they could do… “
In an exclusive interview, 10 On Your Side’s Regina Mobley asked Nelson about the response from Virginia Beach Police.
Regina Mobley: Do you believe the police department should have sent out a bulletin to the entire region to be on the lookout for this car [a 2016 Ford SUV] possibly carrying two people?
Pauline Nelson: Yes, yes absolutely but I feel he never should have been out.
Criminal records show that over the years Morton has faced allegations of violence against three women. In September of 2021, Morton was released on bond on a case that’s still pending.
After Covington had been missing for three days, State police, at the request of Virginia Beach Police, issued an Ashanti Alert on 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 and says she learned of the tragedy via social media.
“I saw online one of [Covington’s] family members posted a picture of Gary and I flipped out,” said Diedra Neumeister, who says she met Morton in 2012 when he was a cook at a popular sports bar in Norfolk. She became pregnant in 2013 and the child was born in 2014.
“I was like ‘oh my God this is the father of my child; I was like he did this,’” said Neumeister in an emotional interview outside her 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 her father is a murderer,’” said Neumeister, who is a former member of the United States military.
Innocent until proven guilty, Morton is due in court Thursday for the first of several hearings on charges that have been filed across three cities including abduction, illegal possession of firearms, and leading police on a high-speed chase.
In 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 intends to attend the hearing.
“I just want to be there to support the family and just want to know that he is going to get put away for life because nobody deserves this,” said Neumeister.
A memorial service is set for Sunday, August 28 at 3 p.m. at First Baptist Campostella located at 1510 Conoga Street in Norfolk.
Pastor Tyrone Jackson told 10 On Your Side other services are planned for Covington’s hometown in West Haven, Connecticut.
The Covington children have posted a GoFundMe page to help with expenses.