James B. Covington was born on October 12, 1984 to Gary and Francine Bradford Covington who were in their late 40s at the time. Gary was a building inspector and Francine a store manager. James, called "Jamie" by everyone but his parents, is their only child.
School records show a pattern of teacher-prompted visits to school psychologists and outside social workers. Jamie is never described as troublesome, merely troubled. Whatever the root of the behavior which brought him to his teachers' attention, he continued seeing therapists of one sort or another until he graduated.
Several high school teachers summed up Jamie as too smart for his own good but not smart enough to save himself. When there wasn't enough of a challenge to keep him interested, he simply disengaged rather than complete the necessary task and then perhaps build on his accomplishment. If he knew he could do something, he often didn't bother.
Jamie attended Old Miss for one semester but then stayed there for a second, bedding down with whoever allowed him to crash for a few nights or weeks. He continues to be friends with alumni who live in the area and appears to cultivate friendships with new students who are still attending school. These two groups provide the core of his social life.
Neighbors and other residents say Jamie is nice enough but that he often leaves them feeling a little uneasy because it's difficult to know when he is being serious and when he is somehow mocking them.
Jamie dates occasionally but has not been involved in a committed relationship that anyone knows of. He speaks warmly of his parents and they of him. Jamie visits an uncle, Frank Covington, in Memphis once a month and has done so ever since he learned to drive.
His high school guidance counselor said that she remembered Jamie because the boy could have gone either way. She wouldn't have been surprised to hear he'd become a successful politician but no more surprised to hear he was serving time in prison.
At the time, it seemed to her that Jamie hadn't made up his mind about who he was and the type of life he wanted to lead. Her concern was always that Jamie would create an external situation that would make the decision for him. When she first heard about Ambrose's death and learned that Jamie lived in the neighborhood, she feared that Jamie had finally engineered that very situation.