Covington murder trial scheduled for September 2018

John Thompson • Updated Sep 21, 2017 at 9:35 PM

ELIZABETHTON — The first-degree murder trial for Demetrius Deshawn Covington, 28, has been scheduled for one  year from now.

Covington is charged in the death of his stepson, Ja'Kari Phillips, 3. in November.

In a motions hearing in Carter County Criminal Court on Wednesday, Judge Lisa Rice set Covington's trial for Sept. 24-28, 2018. Jury selection was scheduled for Sept. 20-21.

The child's mother, Ayonjaleea Shametriauna Phillips, 26, also had her trial for aggravated child endangerment set for Dec. 3-7, 2018.

The charges stem from a Nov. 18 incident in which Covington was allegedly babysitting while Phillips was working. Phillips told police that she received a call from Covington while at work, telling her Ja'Kari had been injured in a fall in the bathtub.

Phillips returned home to find her son having difficulty breathing. She was taking him to the emergency room when she said his condition became much worse. The child died in the hospital.

The warrant for Covington reported that medical testing revealed “the child had internal injuries, including swelling in the brain and a subdural hematoma. The injuries suffered by the child were considered non-accidental trauma and were not self inflicted.”

In the indictment on Phillips' charge, District Attorney General Tony Clark said Phillips committed aggravated child endangerment by “knowingly exposing her son … to or knowingly failing to protect the child from abuse or neglect resulting in physical injury to the child and such injury constituted a serious bodily injury.”

Covington has remained in jail on pretrial confinement, with his bond set at $1 million after he was arrested in Dayton, Ohio, a few days after the 3-year-old died. Covington had just been placed on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's 10 Most Wanted List when arrested.

Bond for Phillips is $100,000.

During Wednesday's motions hearing, Rice listened to several motions. The Public Defender's Office is handling Covington’s case and Scott Shults is defending Phillips.

Rice scheduled 2018 motion hearings for both defendants on April 11, June 22 and Aug. 27

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