COVINGTON, La. — Downtown Covington was stunned by news Monday morning that two burned bodies were found behind a glass company building and police quickly suspected murder.
Adding to the shock was news that a retired St. Peter pastor and the woman who helped take care of him following a stroke and surgery were missing. There was heightened concern that they could be the victims with the current pastor of St. Peter Church saying he was “unsettled and staying prayerful” as they await the identification of the victims.
The church was having a prayer vigil Monday night.
Confirmed missing is retired priest Otis Young and pastoral associate Ruth Prats. Young served as pastor of St. Peter from 2012 until July of 2022 when he retired after health problems that included a stroke and a heart attack.
Arrested was Antonio Donde Tyson. Records show that he went to prison in 1993 for forcible rape and was released in August of this year – about one month after Father Young had retired.
Officials have stayed mum on evidence that they have, but they firmly believe the deaths were criminal murder and Tyson faces 2 counts of first-degree murder and 2 counts of second-degree kidnapping.
“This is pretty much one of the most horrifying things that can happen,” said Jessica Howell, who lives near where the bodies were found.
She echoed the sentiment of many who were at a loss for words.
“So shocked that this could happen here. Everyone is horrified by how horrible what happened was, but just shocked that in our little town, I mean, we’re in downtown Covington. This sort of thing doesn’t happen here,” said Susan White.
St. Peter School and St. Scholastica Academy, a high school for girls, were both dismissed early Monday. Officials said it was due to the proximity to the crime scene and police activity.
The bodies were discovered early Monday behind the Dependable Glass building by the owner of the company. WWL-TV's Erika Ferrando said that the owner told her that he got to work at 5 a.m. and when he opened the back door, he saw two bodies badly burned and called 911.
Father Young retired from St. Peter after 10 years this past July due to health issues that included a stroke and heart surgery.
“There is an appointed time for everything,” said Father Young in a letter to parishioners in November 2021, announcing his retirement, effective July 1, 2022.
“Our hearts have been shattered by this unfathomable crime,” said Parish President Mike Cooper in a social media post. “We stand behind the Covington Police Department and St. Tammany Parish Sheriffs Office as they investigate this heinous action. Please join me in praying for the families and friends of the victims and the entire Covington community.”
“You would like to think that Covington is immune to this type of tragedy,” said Covington Mayor Mark Johnson. “But, it’s not.”
Covington Police have a 10 a.m. press conference scheduled Tuesday where a lot more information could be released, including the identities of the victims and a possible motive in the crime.