Disclaimer: All persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
COVINGTON, La. (WGNO) — St. Tammany Parish Coroner Charles Preston has identified one of the bodies of two people who were found badly burned in downtown Covington Monday morning.
The victim has been identified as Father Otis Young, a retired priest at St. Peter Catholic Church in Covington. His preliminary cause of death has been listed as blunt and sharp force trauma and the manner, homicide.
A spokesman for the St. Tammany Parish Coroner Charles Preston says they are in the process of identifying the second victim. Young’s assistant, or some say his caretaker, Ruth Prats, remains missing.
Neighbors say Prats spent a portion of Sunday getting her house ready for Christmas.
“I saw her about 2 or 3 o’clock the day she died,” Prats’ next-door neighbor Walter Richard said. “She was putting lights up on her front porch, and I walked over. I took my motorcycle ride, I came in, I saw her over there, so we always talk when we see other.”
Richard says during their last interaction, he offered to help her with her Christmas lights by getting her an automatic timer.
“She said, ‘Can you pick me up one?’ I said, ‘I’ll pick up two, and we’ll put them on the porch.’ So, I came back over, and that’s the last time I saw her,” Richard explained.
Neighbors believe Prats and Father Young were murdered by Antonio Tyson, who was arrested by Covington police Monday on first-degree murder and second-degree kidnapping charges.
“He’s supposed to have gotten out of prison this last August for rape, and he’s running around the streets now,” Richard said. “That should not be.”
Tyson is currently being held without bond following a court hearing Tuesday morning.
According to a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Corrections, in 1993, Tyson received a 40-year sentence for forcible rape, a 40-year sentence for armed robbery, and a 30-year sentence for aggravated burglary, all to run concurrently.
Because of Act 138 of 1991, Tyson was eligible for release on February 1, 2012, onto good time parole supervision. However, the spokesman stated Tyson lost 4,219 days because of misconduct in prison but then earned 360 days of good time for courses and programming he took while incarcerated.
Tyson was released from David Wade Correctional Center on August 21, 2022. The spokesman said since his release, and up to his arrest, he has complied with the conditions of his good time parole, including employment and a place of residency.
Prats’ neighbors are still trying to figure out how something like this could happen.
“I just wish I could have been around when that guy was there,” Richard said.
Flowers, cards and a candle are now on display at St. Peter Catholic Church, paying tribute to Father Young and Prats.
“She’s just very loved and very missed,” Prats’ next-door neighbor Dina Richard said.
On Wednesday, St. Peter’s Ministry Center will be open from 9 a.m. to noon where clergy and counselors will be available for support.
According to the Covington Police Department, officers responded to the 600 block of E. Gibson Street around 7 a.m. Monday (Nov. 28) where the bodies two people were found ‘burned beyond recognition.’
A nearby business owner says she was shocked to hear the news and that it was very unusual for the area.
“My first reaction was that’s not possible, not in Covington,” Artmasters Screen Printing owner Susan White said. “I mean, this is just such a sleepy town where everybody knows everyone, and it just doesn’t even compute.”
Later that morning, Covington police arrested 49-year-old Antonio Donde Tyson for charges that include:
- First-degree murder (2 counts)
- Second-degree kidnapping (2 counts)
- Obstruction of justice (2 counts)
- Resisting an officer
- Illegal possession of stolen things
Meanwhile, police confirm Father Otis Young, the former priest at St. Peter Catholic Church, and Ruth Prats, who is said to have been Young’s assistant, have been reported missing.
“It’s absolutely shocking because St. Peter [Catholic Church] is a pillar of this community; Ruth was one of our customers,” White said. “It’s just incomprehensible.”
Covington Mayor Mark Johnson says he was saddened to hear the news and is offering his condolences.
“Well, this morning I got news of the awful events that took place last night. We’re very saddened to hear about it. We lift up our prayers to the victims, to the victims’ families and to the community,” Mayor Johnson said. “We’d like to think that Covington is immune to these types of tragedies, but obviously, we’re not.”
St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper also released a statement:
“Our hearts have been shattered by this unfathomable crime. We stand behind the Covington Police Department and St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s 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.”
We’re told more details will be released as they become available. Stay updated with WGNO on air and online for the latest updates.