On Thursday authorities identified the second victim in a double homicide that occurred in Covington where both bodies were burned beyond recognition early Monday, Nov. 28.
During a news conference held at the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s office, Ruth Prats, 73, was identified through DNA testing.
Earlier this week, the coroner’s office identified Rev. Otis Young, 71, a retired pastor at St. Peter Catholic Church as one of the victims. St. Tammany Parish Coroner Charles Preston said Young died of sharp, blunt force trauma. Prats was a pastoral associate at St. Peter Church.
Preston said Thursday that the cause of death for Prats was blunt force trauma.
During the joint news conference, Covington Police Lt. Kevin Collins laid out a timeline of events leading up to the bodies being found early Monday behind a business on East Gibson Street in downtown Covington.
Young and Prats were beloved in the community, according to Covington Mayor Mark Johnson.
“We are sad. We are angry,” Johnson said. “We lost two pillars of our community. We lost two wonderful people. We will often wonder why God chose to take these two of his children at this time in this manner. We will mourn. We will grieve. We will overcome and through our faith we will persevere.”
Antonio Tyson was arrested in the crime and booked with two counts of first-degree murder and several other charges. Authorities have not released a motive.
Collins would not reveal where they think the homicides happened or where the bodies were burned. He said there is no evidence Tyson knew either victim prior to the killings.
Covington police first became involved Sunday night when law enforcement was alerted to a report of a hit-and-run on East Boston Street next to Bogue Falaya Towers at 7:11 p.m.,
Collins said a witness gave the license plate number of the vehicle, a Honda CRV, and police learned that it belong to Prats.
When they were unable to contact her, they contacted her family, and members were likewise unable to reach her.
Family members met police at Prats’ home near St. Peter’s Church, and Prats’ cellphone was heard ringing in a nearby dumpster, Collins said. At that point, her name and vehicle description were entered into a national data base of missing persons.
Colins said Covington police found Prats’ vehicle at 3:43 a.m. at Walgreens on U.S. 190. Tyson and a woman were inside the vehicle. They were taken to the Covington Police Department for questioning.
Collins said the call that possible human remains had been discovered came in at 5:49 a.m.
Video surveillance from St. Peter School showed Tyson, riding a bicycle in the neighborhood Sunday afternoon, Collins said. It also showed him speaking to both Prats and Otis at 3:53 p.m. at her house.
Video showed him parking his bicycle at a nearby grocery store, walking back to Prats’ home, and knocking on the door. He was holding a knife behind his back and in a crouched position, Collins said.
Video then showed him leaving the house at 6:26 p.m. in Prats’ vehicle.
“I’d like to thank Chief Mike Ferrell, the Covington Police Department and the investigations unit for their quick action, methodical investigation and their professionalism,” Johnson said. “I am proud of you and the city of Covington and its citizens are proud of you. With the suspect in custody, I want our residents to know our streets are safe and secure.”
St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper issued a statement Thursday
“We are heartbroken beyond belief,” he wrote. “Father Otis Young and Ruth Prats embodied the spirit of Covington. Father Otis faithfully led the congregation and children at St. Peter Catholic Church and School for many years. Ruth cared deeply about her community, neighbors and loved ones, as shown through her work for the St. Peter community and care for Fr. Otis in recent years.”