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Elizabethton man awaiting trial in child's death faces new charge

John Thompson • May 4, 2018 at 7:23 PM

ELIZABETHTON — A man awaiting trial in his stepson’s death faces a new charge after authorities said he was involved in a struggle with jailers on Thursday.

Demetrius Deshawn Covington, 30, is in pretrial confinement on a first-degree murder charge in the November 2016 death of his 3-year-old stepson, JaKari LaDrelli Phillips.

Officer Billy Ellis reported that he helped subdue Covington on his back while the prisoner fought with other officers inside the jail Thursday.

Ellis said he placed his right arm across Covington’s face and turned his head away from the officers to protect them from the possibility of Covington head-butting them or spitting on them.

He said Covington managed to turn his head while he continued to fight and bit him on the inside of his right bicep. Ellis charged Covington with simple assault.

On Friday, Covington appeared in General Sessions Court and was bound over to a Carter County grand jury.

Covington was being held in pretrial confinement at the time of the incident because his bond on the first-degree murder charge was set at $1 million. That bond was set after he was captured in Dayton, Ohio, shortly after the child died in 2016.

Covington had been placed on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Ten Most Wanted list before his capture. Police said he fled after the child was taken by his mother, Ayonjaleea Phillips, to the hospital with serious injuries that Covington claimed had been caused by a fall in the bathtub while he was babysitting the child.

Phillips was also charged in the death of the child and pleaded guilty last month to aggravated child endangerment.

She was sentenced to 18 years in prison after she admitted being with Covington when he punished the child by striking him with a wooden hair brush on his head, face, chest and the bottoms of his feet and for allowing him to babysit the child while she was at work.

Covington is scheduled to go on trial on the murder charge in September.

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