COVINGTON - Less than a full month into the new year, Newton County authorities are already investigating their third homicide case after the bodies of a man and woman were discovered inside a home in The Falls subdivision Tuesday night.
According to Lt. Bill Watterson, spokesman for the Newton County Sheriff's Office, deputies responded to 695 Freeman Drive about 9:30 p.m. where they discovered the two dead victims - a man in his late 30s and a woman in her early 30s.
As of press time Wednesday, the names of the victims were being withheld pending notification of their families. Authorities are also withholding the cause of death.
"We're not releasing that as of yet. We are withholding that information for investigative purposes," Watterson said. "We don't want to give the suspect any information that he might be able to obtain through the media."
Watterson said deputies were alerted to the crime after being contacted by one of the victim's employers, who became concerned after the employee failed to show up for work Monday and Tuesday.
"(The employer) went to the house and knocked on the door. There were no lights on and nobody came to the door. He went and got a friend, they came back and started looking in the windows and actually saw one of the victims on the floor," Watterson said.
Watterson declined to comment on a possible motive for the crime but said investigators don't believe illegal narcotics were involved.
"There was no forced entry into the house, and we believe that our victims knew their assailant," he said.
It is still unclear exactly how many perpetrators were involved in the slaying or how long the victims had been dead.
"We asked the medical examiner to try and give us a time of death, and they are unable to do so at this point," the NCSO spokesman said.
Both bodies have been sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's crime lab in Decatur, and though they've gotten some preliminary findings, Watterson said they are still awaiting toxicology reports to come back.
"We are following up on leads that come in," he said. "Information that we have been able to gather, we are going over that and the evidence and that has revealed several clues."
"Shocked," "scared" and "concerned" were the words neighbor Tim Puckett used to describe his reaction to news of the double homicide in his quiet neighborhood.
"Everybody I've spoken to in the neighborhood is concerned, worrying about a home invasion situation," he said.
Puckett, who has lived in the neighborhood since 2000, said this is the first violent crime of this magnitude to occur in the area.
Fred Weir, a neighbor who said he lived nearby, had walked his dogs in front of the Freeman Drive house Tuesday night, but said nothing appeared to be amiss.
He was concerned, however, with the safety of the neighborhood where he has lived for seven years.
"There have been no other issues. I was surprised by this," he said, adding that he didn't know the people who were killed. "I just want to know I can leave my wife and children here without being concerned about their safety. I want to know if we need to be worried. Either way, it's a tragedy if this was premeditated or if there is someone on the loose in the community randomly committing murders."
In addition to the NCSO, the GBI, Newton County Coroner's Office and Newton County District Attorney's Office are assisting in the investigation into the deaths.
Investigators ask anyone with information about this case to call the NCSO at 678-625-1403. Tips can be given to the NCSO anonymously at 678-625-5007 or through the Web at www.newtonsheriffga.org by clicking on "anonymous tip line." Those who want a response from NCSO personnel should leave contact information.
Joel Griffin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.