Investigation continues into Covington murder

Executive assistant to CoH pastor was known as courteous, fair and always trusted

Chism-Cazarez-Thomas-Covington

Lee Covington (right) with Cathedral of Hope’s Chris Chism, left, and the Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas. (Courtesy Barb Nunn/2nd2Nunn Photography)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Lee Covington, 54, was found dead in his condo by a friend late Friday afternoon, July 7.

Covington was executive assistant to the Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas at Cathedral of Hope, and had worked for the church for more than 10 years. He was first hired by the Rev. Jo Hudson as a receptionist. Hudson then promoted him to his current position, and he served the Rev. Jim Mitulski, interim pastor, in the same position.

A friend called police after finding Covington dead inside his locked home. The friend told police to look for a Rolex watch, car and house keys and a cell phone, and according to police, all of the items were missing from the home.

Police spoke to neighbors who said they had written down the license plate number of a suspicious man they saw walking in the complex. While police were processing the crime scene, neighbors saw the same man return, this time driving a U-Haul.

The license plate number led police to Yevin Rushing, 22. On Saturday, they brought Rushing to police headquarters as a person of interest. Rushing waived his Miranda rights and agreed to talk to police, admitting that he met Covington on Craigslist and that he was at Covington’s condo on Friday.

After police found a Rolex watch in Rushing’s car, he claimed Covington gave him the watch during an earlier visit.

Although the police report is heavily redacted and detectives have not released additional information while the investigation continues and to protect “the privacy of the victim,” Rushing also had Covington’s keys. He apparently locked the door behind him as he left the condo and, presumably, planned to continue the robbery when he returned with the U-Haul, not expecting the body to be found that quickly or for neighbors to have been so observant.

After the medical examiner performed an autopsy and declared the cause of death “homicide due to suffocation and affixation,” police arrested Rushing for capital murder. He is being held in Lew Sterrett on $500,000 bond.

In honor of Covington, who was a beloved figure at Cathedral of Hope, many people wore bowties to Sunday morning services at the church. Covington always wore a bowtie when he was at the church.

Mitulski, who served as interim pastor of Cathedral of Hope after the resignation of Hudson, said his success at the church was largely due to Covington. He said he relied on Covington’s personal and professional support.

“I came to work at the cathedral at a delicate time in its history, a transition time after serious conflict that had been many years in the making,” Mitulski said. “I didn’t know anybody very well, and I needed someone who I could trust and who the various estranged parties also trusted. Lee proved himself time and again to be a person of impeccable integrity and a natural ambassador and bridge builder.”

Because people trusted Covington, Mitulski said he was able to connect with people he wouldn’t have otherwise been able to meet. Covington, he added, treated people courteously and fairly, even if they were not always polite with him.

“He was calm, and helped me navigate some of the cultural ways of Texas and southern culture that were new to me as an outsider,” Mitulski said, calling Covington “the through line that kept the cathedral running.”

When he heard Covington had been murdered, Mitulski said, “I held it together for a day, and last night I went to a gay church in Boston where I felt I could be myself and I cried and cried.”

Hudson said she hired Covington to be the front desk receptionist after he retired from another job. She said he loved the church and wanted to give something back. She described Covington as a cordial, kind and good man who was professional and “could handle difficult situations.”

Hudson said after her administrative assistant left, the position stayed vacant for awhile because she wasn’t sure how to fill it. “Then I walked in the church one day and there he was, right in front of my eyes,” she said. “So he moved upstairs.”

Hudson said she and Covington quickly synched their work patterns, and “he was always at my right shoulder. He was there with me before and after worship.”

Covington had a knack for making sure everyone’s needs were taken care of, Hudson said. When someone would come up to the pastor to tell her about an upcoming hospital stay or a sick relative, Covington reminded her and made sure she followed up.

“I’m heartbroken over this,” Hudson said. “I will miss him a lot.”

Cazares-Thomas, calling Covington an incredible man, said, “I’ve been in Dallas two years. I never would have gotten into the community as well as I have without his assistance. He always made sure I was in the right place at the right time with the right information.”

He said he didn’t know how to replace him, but then quickly corrected himself and said he couldn’t really replace him.

Mayor Mike Rawlings called Cazares-Thomas to express his condolences as have religious leaders from around the world.            

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 14, 2017.

—  David Taffet

Grand marshal voting now open

2 audition dates set for the  Pride Festival community stage

Grand-Marshalls

Shanequa Williams, Jalenzski Brown, Omar Narvaez, Lee Ann Locken, Michael LaMasters, Nicole Ohara Munro.

DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Nominations for grand marshals of the 2017 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade have closed, and voting has begun to narrow the field of six finalists down to two. Online voting runs through Aug. 4 at DallasPride.org.

Dallas Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman said 30 people were nominated in all. The ballot lists the six people who received the most nominations. Nominees are Omar Narvaez, Nicole O’Hara Munro. Queen Taz/Shanequa Williams, Jalenzski Brown, Michael Hayes/Michael Lamasters and Lee Ann Locken.

In June, Omar Narvaez became the first openly gay person elected to the Dallas City Council in 10 years. He is also one of the few people who came onto the council by beating an incumbent. Narvaez works for Lambda Legal and has served as president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

Nicole O’Hara Munro bartends at Zippers and is show hostess at Marty’s Live. She’s a strong activist and educator for transgender rights. She currently works with A Nu Trans Movement and a LGBTQ youth group.

Queen Taz/Shanequa Williams is a survivor of the July 7 protest that ended in the shooting of DPD and DART officers. She’s a bi-sexual woman who supports the LGBT community and is a strong and powerful voice for equality and acceptance in our city. She is a mother/rapper/singer/songwriter (Tru G Records) Prez of Boss ‘N Up CC/Prez of Life is Valuable.

Jalenzski Brown works with Resource Center as the MPowerment programs manager and co-manager of the HIV and STD prevention and treatment services. He also serves on the Mayor of Dallas’ LGBT Task Force.

Michael Hayes/Michael Lamasters is involved with GayBingo and is a former Mr. Gay Highland Park, Mr. Gay Texas USofA and Mr. Gay Mid-Atlantic USofA as well as the former national titleholder of Mr. Gay USofA. He’s a regional college recruiter and speaks to students on shaping and building their futures.

Lee Ann Locken is one the stars of The Real Housewives of Dallas. During the show’s first season, she included quite a bit of fundraising for HIV/AIDS causes, spending so much time working with Legacy Counseling Center that Legacy Executive Director Melissa Grove was practically a seventh housewife on the show. Even on episodes in which Grove didn’t appear, Locken mentioned needing to call Grove. Locken was recently grand marshal at the Key West Pride Parade.

This is the fourth year grand marshals are selected entirely by nominations and a community vote.

Auditions

Open auditions for local talent to perform on the Community Stage at the Pride Festival take place in the Rose Room on two consecutive Saturdays — July 22 and July 29. The auditions will be held in the Rose Room from 1-4 p.m. Enter through the patio entrance off the parking lot behind S-4, and come up the stairs to the Rose Room.

Doughman said the festival committee will select up to a dozen acts to perform 15-20-minute sets from 11 a.m.–7 p.m.

He said they’re looking for a variety of acts — dance, drag, stand-up comedy, two or three actors doing a scene, acoustic groups.

“We’re open to any talent,” he said.

But there is a limit to what they can accommodate: “We have no facilities for a full-scale band,” Doughman said, simply due to limitations in the park for electricity. So that means no large bands that need multiple outlets.

“We can accommodate a guitar and a drum set, though,” he said.

This is the first time there will be a community stage in addition to the main stage.

Audition at The Rose Room, 3911 Cedar Springs Road on July 22 and 29 from 1-4 p.m.    

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 14, 2017.

        

—  David Taffet

App – solutely!

New smart toy keeps dogs active, engaged

Dog-posing-with-GoBone

 

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Pamper-your-Pet-logo-(News)You use apps. Why shouldn’t your dog?

Chris Watts, owner of Petropolitan, said Santiago Gutierrez came in one day and asked if Watts were interested in seeing a new toy. Watts said, sure, he was always looking for something new.

What Gutierrez showed him was Go Bone, a smart toy for dogs. It wasn’t just new, it was revolutionary. Watts quickly offered his marketing skills.

Go Bone is a dog bone on wheels that can be programmed through an app for eight hours before needing a recharge. It can also be operated directly through the phone. And as far as Watts or Gutierrez know, no one has ever created a dog toy like it.

“Dogs find other ways to get in trouble,” Watts said. “Go Bone will keep them healthy and happy.”

Gutierrez is an engineer who has a miniature schnauzer that he loves. A lot. He spent lots of time with the dog on weekends, but wanted to find some way to engage with his pet during the week. So he came up with the idea of creating a smart bone.

“Being an engineer gave me a leg up in constructing a prototype,” Gutierrez said.

After the prototype was constructed, Gutierrez tested the Go Bone with friends and at shelters. He said dogs arrived at shelters scared and lonely, but when shelter workers put a Go Bone in the pen with them, the dogs became engaged. People who work with the animals said those dogs tended to be adopted.

At home, what happens if a dog chews up the Go Bone? At $169, that can be expensive to replace. Gutierrez said the wheels and outer core of the bone are replaceable, and the electronics inside are well protected. So replacing parts isn’t a major investment.

In addition to keeping pets who have to be left alone during the day engaged, the Go Bone is great for disabled vets and others who think they can’t have pets due to disabilities. They may not be able to exercise their dogs by taking them for long walks, but the Go Bone will help keep the dogs active, Watts and Gutierrez noted.

Watts said the Go Bone works in hospitals to help children who can’t get out of bed to play with therapy dogs.

Go Bone and its replacement parts are manufactured in Dallas. More than 3,000 have already been sold and Watts is looking for retailers to carry the item. Until then, it’s available at Petropolitan, 2406 Emmett St. at Hampton Road. It’s also available online at MyGoBone.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 14, 2017.

—  David Taffet

A wild ass: the perfect gift?

Both the Dallas and Fort Worth zoos have animal ‘adoptio’n programs that contribute to animal upkeep

Hippo

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Pamper-your-Pet-logo-(News)You can’t take your newly-adopted animal home or name it, because the animals already have names, and your home probably isn’t equipped to house them. But you can “adopt” some pretty exotic critters through your local zoo.

Both Dallas Zoo and Fort Worth Zoo have animal adoption programs that allow patrons to “adopt” an animal to help defray the cost of feeding and caring for that animal for a year. And both zoos hope you’ll consider supporting one or more of their animals.

Dallas Zoo

Adhama and Boipelo are available for adoption at the Dallas Zoo. The hippo couple that met just before their new habitat opened are madly in love, and Dallas Zoo would love for fans to adopt them.

Dallas Zoo’s $50 Adopt-An-Animal special includes a personalized adoption certificate, a zookeeper’s report, a small plush hippo and a special invitation to an event at the zoo. Best of all, you’ll also have the comfort of knowing you helped give some of Dallas’ newest and largest residents a warm welcome by supporting their care.

On its website, Dallas Zoo lists the annual fees for adopting various of its animal residents. A Bolivian Grey Titi Monkey or a Rock Hyrax are available for a $25 adoption fee. Among the $50 animals are a meerkat, a mongoose or a golden lion tamarin. Just $100 will get you an impala or an ocelot. More expensive is a giraffe for $1,500 or an elephant for $2,000.

Lots of other animals at Dallas Zoo need adopting too, and annual fees range from $25 to $2,000. For instance, here’s a perfect way of saying I love you: adopt a Somali wild ass for just $500.

To adopt an animal at Dallas Zoo, go to DallasZoo.com and navigate to the Adopt an Animal under Support the Zoo.

Fort Worth Zoo

The Fort Worth Zoo’s adoption package is available online at FortWorthZoo.org/adoptions.

Adoption packages begin at $25 and run through $500. Animals currently in need of adoption include lions and tiger and a hippopotamus. Unlike Dallas Zoo’s adoptions, animals may be shared by multiple adopters, so portions of larger animals may be purchased for lower prices.

If adopting as a gift, a card will be sent to the recipient along with your personalized message.

The Fort Worth Zoo spends more than $1 million a year feeding its residents. The adoptions help defray the cost of food for one animal for one year.

The $40 adoption package includes a plush animal, a color photo of the adopted animal, a fact sheet about the animal and an animal carrier box.

A $75 Dive In and Adopt All the Coolest Animals Around package includes four plush animals — an alligator, clown fish, river otter and sea turtle — as well as a Big Squirt water toy, beach bucket and adoption certificate and information sheets.

Special packages are available for Fort Worth Zoo’s babies — Gus, a gorilla, and Belle and Bowie, baby elephants.

Adoptions may also be done by phone at 817-759-7372.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 14, 2017.

—  David Taffet

U.S. House votes down amendment taking away trans healthcare

Rep. Vicky Hartzler

The U.S. House of Representatives voted down an amendment that would have taken away medically necessary health care for transgender service members and military dependents. Proposed by Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Missouri, the amendment would have barred access to transition-related health care — including critically important care such as hormone therapy — for service members and military family members.

The amendment was defeated by a vote of 214 to 209.

“Congresswoman Hartzler’s attempt to strip healthcare from service members and their families in a time of war was unpatriotic, unconstitutional, and just plain vile, we are pleased to see that the House of Representatives voted down this amendment” said OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Matt Thorn.

“This was a horrifying, vicious attack on service members and military family members, and our families were beside themselves in fear,” said American Military Partner Association President Ashley Broadway-Mack. “It would have been beyond unconscionable to rip away the critically important health care of transgender military family members and service members — care that their doctors believe is medically necessary — and would have severely harmed thousands of military families and undermine military readiness. We are incredibly grateful to the members of Congress who stood up and stopped this assault on our military families.”

—  David Taffet

DISD takes stand against bathroom bills

DISD Board President Dan Micciche, center, is flanked by supporters at press conference Wednesday outside DISD headquarters. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Dallas Independent School District board member Miguel Solis called a press conference today (Wednesday, July 12) outside of DISD headquarters to denounce the bathroom bills that have been filed for the special session of the Texas Legislature that begins on July 18.

Board President Dan Micciche also spoke, calling the bills a waste of time and taxpayer money. He said the proposals would be impossible to police unless the state would like to place a police officer in every bathroom in every school.

Solis said DISD supports good policy and opposes bad policy at the state house.

“Not one time has the issue of bathrooms come up,” Solis said of his seven years as a teacher and school board member. He pointed out that a bill proposed by Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, would prevent DISD from protecting children from discrimination.

“… a political subdivision, including a public school district, may not adopt or enforce an order, ordinance, policy, or other measure to protect a class of persons from discrimination,” the first sentence of Simmons’ bill says.

“Pragmatism has gone out the door,” Solis said.

Other speakers included Resource Center CEO Cece Cox, Dallas Stonewall President Lee Daugherty and award-winning DISD teacher Johnny Boucher, who is transgender.

“Enough is enough,” Cox said. “There is no problem.”

She gave several statistics, including the fact that 85 percent of trans students report having been harassed, and called the bills an attempt to license discrimination.

Daugherty said the Texas GOP has been hijacked by extremists.

“If the GOP really cares about local control, why are they trying to strip away local ordinances?” he asked.

Boucher said he preferred to talk about school funding.

“Instead I have to talk about whether I can use a bathroom at work,” he said.

He ended the press conference by calling on the legislature to flush the gender discrimination bills down the toilet.

—  David Taffet

Equality Texas posts 2017 legislative scorecard

Smith.Chuck.EQTX

Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas

Equality Texas issued its legislative scorecard. The analysis is based on votes taken on the floor of each chamber and how each member cast their vote for each piece of legislation. Extra credit was given for the following:

+10 for primary authorship of supported legislation
-10 for primary authorship of opposed legislation
+10 for advancing EQTX agenda
-10 for advancing against EQTX agenda
+5 for co-authoring supported legislation
-5 for co-authoring opposed legislation

The area’s high scorers were Rep. Rafael Anchia, with 125 percent for the 2017 session on Equality Texas’ legislative scorecard, and Rep. Eric Johnson with 120 percent. Why the difference between the two? Anchia wrote one and co-authored one. Johnson wrote more than one, but wasn’t a co-sponsor of others. These guys share an office suite in the capitol. So that’s 245 points from one little office.

Rep. Roberto Alonzo received 110 percent. Victoria Neave, Toni Rose and Helen Giddings received 100 percent. Yvonne Davis who represents Oak Cliff and Cedar Hill received an 80 percent.

Both lesbians who serve in the House — Celia Israel and Mary Gonzalez — received 125 percent.

Rep. Linda Koop, who voted with the LGBT community when she served on the Dallas City Council, scored 0 percent as a state representative. Koop represents North Dallas and her zero was the third highest score for a Republican.

Rep. Jason Villabla, who represents parts of East Dallas, received the second highest score of any Republican in the legislature — 50 percent. Sarah Davis, a Republican who represents the Montrose area in Houston received an 85 percent. And Morgan Meyer, who represents Highland Park, and Garland’s Angie Chen Button each received minus-5 percent.

 

—  David Taffet

Legislature promises a very special session

The special session of the legislature begins on Tuesday, July 18. Dallas Voice will be there for the opening and for the protests that are planned in Austin.

Legislators are preparing for the special session by filing a variety of bills that prevent cities from passing ordinances to self-govern and to make the lives of transgender people miserable. Equality Texas is tracking those bills. Here are four of the worst that have been filed so far:

HB 46 by Rep. Simmons would prohibit all political subdivisions, including municipalities, school districts, and state colleges and universities, from adopting or enforcing any ordinances or policies that protect transgender people in bathrooms or changing facilities.

HB 50 by Rep. Simmons is similar to HB 46, but relates only to school districts, prohibiting them from adopting or enforcing policies that protect transgender students in bathrooms or changing facilities.

SB 23 by Sen. Hall is a statewide pre-emption bill that would prohibit counties, municipalities, and other political subdivisions from adopting or enforcing laws or ordinances that prohibit discrimination on a basis not protected in state law, and would void all current nondiscrimination ordinances such as those adopted by Fort Worth, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Plano.

The links will help track the progress of these bills as they make their way through the special session. Speaker of the House Joe Straus is on record opposing wasting time with these types of bills and said he is not willing to be responsible for a single suicide that might result from passing any of these bills. He’s not likely to place these bills in committees that would be sympathetic to them.

If want to know what you can do, here are some options.

—  David Taffet

Gonorrhea vaccine shows promise

A vaccine for gonorrhea has been developed in New Zealand that cut infections by about a third, according to the BBC.

About 78 million people are infected with gonorrhea each year and it is becoming resistant to antibiotics. No matter how many times someone is infected with the disease, the body doesn’t build up resistance to it.

The vaccine was developed about 10 years ago to fight meningitis B. Among those vaccinated, cases of gonorrhea dropped by 31 percent. The bacteria that cause meningitis B and gonorrhea are closely related.

Resistance to the drug that treats gonorrhea increased by 300 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control.

In Dallas County, there were 4,968 cases of gonorrhea reported in the latest year statistics were available. Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease reported in Dallas.

The gonorrhea vaccine is not available yet in the U.S.

—  David Taffet

HELP announces PrEP clinic in Fort Worth

DeeJay Johannessen

The Health Education Learning Project (HELP) announced the opening of a new Center for LGBT Health and Wellness in Fort Worth. The Center’s first program — a clinic offering free access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) — will open on July 11. HELP’s Executive Director, DeeJay Johannessen, said that the Center’s clinic will operate under a model of care pioneered by the KIND Clinic in Austin.

Under the “KIND Model,” individuals can access PrEP and PEP services for free, regardless of whether they have insurance. The Center will be open on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings.

PrEP is a daily medication, endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “a powerful HIV prevention tool.” When taken as directed, PrEP (brand name Truvada), has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV transmission by up to 92 percent.

“The retail cost for PrEP is more than $1500 per month, which obviously is a barrier for many people,” Johannessen said. “Our program at HELP’s new Center can eliminate that barrier.” HELP’s Center will be the second clinic in Tarrant county specifically designed to provide PrEP services but will be the only clinic in North Texas providing access to PrEP without charge. The Tarrant County Health Department opened a PrEP clinic in 2016.

The Center initially will be located within HELP’s offices at 1717 S. Main Street and will move to a new space as programs and resources grow. The Center’s mission is designed to address essential community resources for the LGBT community in Tarrant County. Additional programming at the Center will be determined by a community advisory committee of LGBT residents in Tarrant County.

Individuals interested in accessing PrEP services through the HELP Center should call 817-332-7722 to schedule an intake.

—  David Taffet