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Man accused of killing Covington religious leaders, in court Tuesday

A group that handles death penalty cases has been representing Antonio Donde Tyson, who has been accused of killing Father Otis Young and church worker Ruth Prats.

COVINGTON, La. — It has been four months since the bodies of Ruth Prats and Father Otis Young were found in downtown Covington, burned beyond recognition.
Tuesday, their accused killer was in court for the arraignment.

The case brought back emotions on the north shore as both sides gathered in the courtroom.

It was a case that stunned people who live on the north shore. Just after Thanksgiving last year, the Rev. Otis Young, a recently retired priest from St. Peter Catholic Church in Covington, and his caretaker, and longtime church worker Ruth Prats, were found brutally beaten to death with their bodies burned. Tuesday, Antonio Donde Tyson pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in their deaths.

“I have nothing to say about that. I don't know what was going on in his mind, and I don't have nothing to say about it. He pled not guilty. I don't know what to believe,” Tyson’s sister said.

While Tyson's sister did not want to talk about what her brother is accused of, a friend of Ruth's also did not want to talk about what she felt when she saw Tyson in the courtroom, but said her elegant, classy friend is in her daily prayers.

“I miss Ruth's laughter. She found joy in everything, so did Father. Ruth was someone that everyone could turn to with a trouble, or a problem, and she would instantly have time for you, and you always left feeling much better than when you arrived,” said Prats’ friend Celie Clark.

“This crime has still had a dramatic impact on the city of Covington. People in Covington live with fear now that something terrible might happen to them at any moment. It's really terrorized the city, and that's the kind of thing that really impacts the quality of life. So, we're going to pursue it all the way,” said St. Tammany District Attorney Warren Montgomery, who will pursue the death penalty in this case. 

Capital Defense Project of Southeast Louisiana, a group that handles death penalty cases has been representing Tyson. Attorney Kerry Cuccia said talking about his strategy for that possibility would not be appropriate.

“We don't have any of the discovery, or anything else. So, even to tell you what type of defense we would present, what we might do, would be premature, because I don't have the information to base it at this time,” Cuccia said. 

Here is what is set to happen next in this case.

There will be a hearing on the DNA evidence. That's because all of it needs to be used up during testing. Permission is needed for that, and the defense wants to be there to make sure it is used properly.

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