Mimi Covert had a promising career ahead of her at Southern Illinois University’s School of Medicine. That all changed on January 16th, 1985. As Mimi was driving near Springfield, Illinois, she saw a truck broken down on the side of the road with its emergency flashers on. Mimi chose to be a Good Samaritan, a decision that would lead to brutal murder.
Mimi Cameo Covert was born July 9th, 1954, in Los Angeles County, California. Mimi grew up in southern California. She graduated from the University of California in Santa Barbara in 1978, earning a degree in physical therapy. She received her master’s degree in physical therapy from USC two years later. During her time at USC, Mimi studied in Dr. Jacqueline Perry’s gait lab in Rancho. She then completed a two-year prosthetics program at UCLA with a goal of helping patients with amputations.
After completing her program in California in 1983, Mimi came to Southern Illinois University for an internship in prosthetics. As a registered physical therapist with a master’s degree in gait analysis and a registered prosthetist, Mimi developed the gait lab at SIU and became the Director of the program. She accomplished a great deal in her career before she even turned thirty years old.
On the evening of January 16th, 1985, Mimi was driving near Springfield, Illinois, when she was a truck pulled over on the side of the road. She stopped to see if the driver needed some help. A young man in his early twenties told her his vehicle broke down, so she offered him a ride in her orange Honda. Once on the road, the man pulled a gun on her. Her assailant ordered her to drive towards Springfield. As she was driving, he went through her purse, stealing five valium tablets and five dollars.
While holding her at gunpoint, the assailant demanded she stop at an ATM and withdraw more money for him. She stopped at three different ATMs, but none were functioning properly. He then demanded that she take him to the airport. While driving to Capital Airport, the assailant demanded she stop the vehicle, at which point he sexually assaulted her. He then got in the driver’s seat. While driving down a snow- and ice-covered road, the assailant had to slow down to negotiate a curve. When he slowed down, Mimi jumped from the passenger side of the vehicle.
The assailant stopped the car and took off after Mimi. He fired a shot, hitting her on the side of the head. Mimi fell to the ground and started to bleed profusely. The assailant walked towards her. As she begged for her life, he emptied the rest of his rounds into her body. After reloading the gun, he dragged Mimi’s body into a ditch across the road. He saw her body was still moving, so he emptied the magazine into her nearly lifeless body, ensuring she would not survive. He then covered her with snow and left the scene.
When Mimi failed to return home, her fiancé called the police and reported her missing. An all points bulletin was released for Mimi’s vehicle. Police quickly located the vehicle at the Haven Motel. They learned the vehicle was driven by the occupant in room 4. When the police entered room 4, they found twenty-three-year-old DeWayne Britz. Inside the room, they also found Mimi’s driver’s license in the trash can and the car keys to her vehicle. They also found his loaded gun.
DeWayne Britz was born October 25th, 1961. According to Britz, he began drinking alcohol at age five or six. He admitted to drinking heavily to the point of blacking out on several occasions before middle school. As a teenager, he began to use methamphetamine, cocaine, PCP, and marijuana. He attempted suicide on at least one occasion. DeWayne received drug rehabilitation, but his demons continued to worsen. DeWayne started to abuse prescription drugs and eventually heroin.
As a result of his lifestyle and addictions, DeWayne had a very difficult time keeping a job and maintaining relationships. DeWayne also had a criminal history that included a conviction for attempted armed robbery in 1982. Britz was sentenced to 4 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections but was paroled early.
On January 16th, 1985, DeWayne spent the day hanging out at Tackett Wheels, a used car dealership in Springfield, Illinois. DeWayne had previously been employed by the dealership but was terminated in November of 1984. DeWayne spent the day talking to the owner, Paul Tackett, and helping clean snow off the tires in the lot. He stayed late, after everyone except Paul Tackett had left. Paul made his final cash sale at 6:15pm, after which he went to put something in a file cabinet. As he turned around, DeWayne Britz hit him on the back of the head with a pistol.
Britz began searching for the cash from the last sale, but Tackett aroused and asked him what he was doing. Paul Tackett ran to a nearby business for help, at which point Britz took off in Tackett’s 1972 Chevy pick-up. Tackett had the engine running, warming the vehicle up for his drive home that cold January evening. Britz drove the truck north, eventually stopping in Salisbury to have a beer. After leaving the bar, Britz headed back south towards Springfield.
As he drove the stolen truck south, the truck started to overheat and run out of gas. DeWayne pulled over, turning on the emergency blinkers. Soon, a young woman stopped in her orange Honda, offering help. The Good Samaritan offered Britz a ride, which he happily accepted. Once inside the vehicle, however, a nightmare for Mimi Covert began.
After Mimi was robbed at gunpoint, DeWayne sexually assaulted her. He then began to drive the vehicle, but the icy conditions meant he had to use caution when negotiating a curve. This gave Mimi the chance to jump from the vehicle. Angered by her exit from the vehicle, Britz shot her in the head. As she begged for her life, he brutally shot her at least ten more times. He left her buried under some snow.
When police found Mimi’s missing vehicle, they quickly linked it to the occupant in room 4 of the Haven Motel. DeWayne Britz was brought in for questioning and provided a full confession. In fact, he led the police to Mimi’s body. DeWayne Britz, just twenty-three-years-old at the time of his heinous crime, was charged with murder, armed robbery, theft, and aggravated sexual assault. He was denied bond while awaiting trial. The Sangamon County prosecutor announced he would seek the death penalty.
At trial, DeWayne insisted that he was heavily intoxicated at the time of the murder with both drugs and alcohol. Several witnesses, however, testified to the contrary. Paul Tackett testified that he was with Britz all day and only saw him drink one beer. The officers who arrested him testified that he denied being intoxicated. Britz said he only meant to fire a shot in the air to scare Mimi as she tried to escape and did not mean to kill her. “The next thing I knew, blood was coming out of her head” Britz testified (Journal Gazette, 1985).
The defense’s case centered around DeWayne Britz being intoxicated and insane at the time of the crime. Nine separate witnesses, including Paul Tackett, the police officers, and Haven Motel front desk clerk, testified that DeWayne Britz was not intoxicated on January 16th, 1985. The defense then presented evidence that Britz was insane due to years of drug and alcohol abuse. Dr. Leslie Fyans, a psychologist, testified that Britz’s IQ was 82, above the threshold for mental impairment. No other tests revealed an organic or neuropsychological abnormality. Dr. Fyans did testify to the patient’s reported history with drug and alcohol abuse, although the doctor admitted on cross examination that the history came only from the defendant. Three psychologists were prepared to testify that Britz was insane at the time of the crime due to drug and alcohol abuse, but the judge did not allow this evidence as the experts’ opinions were based only upon the defendant’s statements.
DeWayne Britz was diagnosed with antisocial and borderline personality disorders. However, the court documents for his appeal state, “People with his background of antisocial behavior are more likely to commit murders than other people, but this does not make them candidates for lenity; rather, it underscores their dangerousness” (Britz V. Cowan). The jury found DeWayne Britz guilty on all charges and sentenced him to death.
In 2002, Governor George Ryan was nearing the end of his term in office. At the same time, he was being investigated for selling driver’s licenses, a crime he was later sent to prison for. Governor Ryan cited numerous overturned convictions for his decision to place a moratorium on executions in Illinois. Critics, however, believe it was to divert attention from the investigation against him. As he exited office in 2003, Governor Ryan commuted all death sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In 2011, Illinois abolished the death penalty.
DeWayne Britz appealed his conviction and sentence many times without success before and after his commutation. In 1990, however, he asked a judge to stop all the appeals processes and put him to death. Despite his pleas, DeWayne Britz escaped the needle and is now serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole. He is currently in custody at the Pinckneyville Correctional Center in Southern Illinois. He is ineligible for parole.
Mimi Cameo Covert was a young woman with a bright future. Her good deed on the night of January 16th, 1985, resulted in her death. She made a deadly mistake while trying to be a Good Samaritan. The SIU School of Medicine established the Mimi Cameo Covert Memorial Lectureship. The program hosts a physician annually to provide a lecture on orthopedic medicine. The program began in 1986 with the dedication of the Mimi Cameo Covert Gait Lab.
Crimmins, J. (2002). Victim’s tears, defense pleas mark start of marathon of Illinois clemency hearings. The Daily Journal. 16 Oct 2002
The Pantagraph (1990). Pontiac death row inmate asks judge for execution. 06 Jun 1990
Quad-City Times (1988) Execution looms for murderer. 21 Jul 1988
Southern Illinoian. (1985). Woman assaulted, killed when she stops to aid motorist. 18 Jan 1985
Yaeger, J. (1985). Springfield man sentenced to die. 25 Oct 1985
Journal Gazette. (1985). Cops: man admitted killing good samaritan. 18 Oct 1985