In Michigan, stunning singer Egypt Covington was preparing for a big new step in her life when tragedy struck.
When Egypt Covington walked into a room, people noticed. And when she'd sing, people listened.
Although the Blues was her favorite, Egypt could sing anything.
"She won 'Country Idol' here in Michigan," sister Beth Covington tells Crime Watch Daily.
Offstage, her career was also hitting a high note.
"She had finally found a job that she really liked," said sister Jessica Covington. "She was working for a beverage distribution company. She knew that she had a future there."
She was also passionate about Curtis Meadows.
"She loved Curtis," said Tina Covington.
The two met nearly a decade ago, and the attraction was immediate.
"Since she met him and knew him," said Egypt's best friend Lindsey Briley.
But in the beginning, their schedules made dating difficult.
"She was a bartender. I have a daughter," said Curtis. "I was more of what you say 'a nine-to-fiver.' I'm going to work, she's coming home from work."
For years they were on and off, out of sight, but never out of mind.
"Even when they were broken up, she loved Curtis. She always wanted to be with Curtis," said Lindsey Briley.
And after almost 10 years, Curtis was finally ready to commit. What had changed?
"We were on the same schedule. We could have a dinner at 8 p.m. together, what you would say 'a normal relationship,'" said Curtis. "So it was great. It was perfect."
So perfect that the two decided to take the next step.
"I was moving in in July. My lease was up," Curtis said.
Lindsey Briley says Egypt was excited about the move. In fact, it's the last thing the two talked about the night her best friend was violently murdered.
What is the last thing you said to her?
"That I was too tired to come over, and she should try to come over to my house and she said that she had to go clean and get ready for Curtis to move in," said Lindsey.
A text to Curtis a couple hours later is the last time he heard from the love of his life.
"I laid down, it was a little after 10 o'clock and I told her good night and I loved her and she said 'Nighty night,'" said Curtis.
The next day, June 23, 2017, his usual "Good morning" text got no reply. Throughout the day his texts and phone calls strangely went unanswered. So after a late Father's Day dinner with his daughter, Curtis headed over to Egypt's house after calling her again.
When he turned on to her street:
"I'd seen her car in the driveway and my stomach just sank," said Curtis. "I knew something wasn't right. I knew the idea of her forgetting her phone was no longer there."
Egypt Covington lived in a duplex with her little dog Ruby. When Curtis walked up, he noticed the door was open.
"I took a step in, two steps, and I yelled her name, 'Egypt,' and her dog Ruby barked," said Curtis.
Ruby comes running into the kitchen, and Curtis immediately notices something is off.
"Usually when you see Ruby, she just can't wait to jump in your lap and kiss you, but she just looked at me, made eye contact and turned around, like 'Follow me,'" said Curtis.
What Curtis saw when he followed Ruby will haunt him for the rest of his life.
"I seen her feet and then I took one more and I seen her. She was bound with her hands behind her back, fetal position, laying on the ground, blood covering her head, and you know, you just, know she's gone," said Curtis.
Horrified at the sight, Curtis runs outside to call 911.
"I don't remember any of that call, I don't remember anything thereafter. It was just like I blanked," said Curtis.
Egypt Covington had been tied up with Christmas lights. She was shot one time in the back of the head. Her depraved killer didn't stop there.
"She was laying with her left side of her face down, kind of like in a fetal position with her hands bound behind her back," said Curtis.
There was no sign of forced entry or of a robbery. Ruby is believed to be the only witness to the killing.
"Poor Ruby was there by herself with her the entire time," said Tina Covington. "I called around to experts to find out if she ran into the person that did it, would they react differently? And they said she could, she could shy back from them, but it's not a proven study."
Had Egypt's neighbors across the hall in her duplex been home that night, her family says, they surely would have heard the gunshot. They believe it's no coincidence that they were out of town.
"The person who did this knew her schedule, knew her neighbor's schedule," said Egypt's stepmother Kristin Covington.
"They knew that her neighbors were out of town because everybody knew that her neighbors went to this festival," said Jessica.
From day one, cops have said Egypt likely knew her killer. Her father Chuck agrees.
Initially cops had one person in mind.
Generally when someone is found murdered, the police always look at the significant other, which would be you in this case.
"Yes. Right," said Curtis Meadows.
Just days before he was supposed to move in, Curtis Meadows found his girlfriend Egypt Covington, 27, shot to death inside her home in Van Buren Township in Michigan.
"It was the worst day of my life. The beginning of it," said Curtis.
Egypt had been bound with Christmas lights. Police say there was no sign of forced entry, no sign of a robbery. They believe Egypt knew her killer, and probably very well. Naturally the first person questioned by cops was her boyfriend Curtis.
"I was strapped down, taken a lie-detector test three days later after finding her," said Curtis. "It's just been hell, you know. The only thing I'm guilty of is loving her."
Cops quickly determine Curtis had no involvement in Egypt's murder.
Who wanted Egypt Covington dead? Who had a motive and enough rage to murder the beautiful 27-year-old?
"Anybody that knew her and knew the situation that found out that she got murdered had one thought in her head," said Egypt's friend Lindsey Briley.
That thought pointed to the who -- and it was kept tightly under wraps. Until now. Just as Crime Watch Daily began to investigate Egypt's killing, police, for the first time, named a person of interest.
That name comes as no surprise to most of Egypt's family and friends.
"I begged her to stop talking to him," said Beth Covington.
During Curtis and Egypt's time apart, Beth Covington says, the only person her sister ever dated was Kenny Michalak. At times, Beth claims, the relationship was volatile.
"He was so crazy and would look through her phone and would blow up her friends if she didn't answer. 'Where's she at? Where is she at?'" said Beth. "I found out about how many of her friends he slept with to belittle her, to make her feel worthless."
But Beth says she had no idea just how strained the relationship had become until their last family vacation onboard a private yacht in the Caribbean.
"She just started spewing like everything that has occurred over the years," said Beth. "I heard about times where he would get mad and punch the wall next to her head. He really liked to shove her a lot, from what she told me. At a wedding she attended he threw her up against a wall."
Egypt didn't confide in many people about the alleged abuse, but she did tell Curtis what happened at the wedding.
"After the wedding, I guess back at the hotel, there was a get-together and he got physical with her," said Curtis. "What she explained, it was more or less grabbing her, pushing her up against the wall and kind of restraining her."
According to Curtis, the cops were called, but no charges were filed.
"From what she said, the wedding party in their way kind of made her feel guilty of like ruining the celebration," said Curtis.
Looking back on it, do you wish she had filed charges now?
"I don't know if it would have changed the outcome or anything. But maybe that would have gotten more people like her parents aware of the situation," said Curtis.
"She didn't mention to me about any physical violence. She did speak of arguments, verbal abuse," said Kristin Covington.
Chuck Covington says his daughter certainly never told him about any of the alleged abuse -- and he believes he knows why.
"She might not have wanted him to get into more trouble than he would. Sharing it would have brought reaction, and maybe she didn't want the reaction," said Chuck.
Are you upset that no one told you what was going on?
"Yeah. I've never really thought about it," said Chuck. "It's what happened, it's how it worked, but yeah."
With no police reports ever filed, Crime Watch Daily cannot verify the allegations of abuse made by her family and friends. We do know that Egypt eventually ended the relationship, and the two remained friends.
"It took a long time for her to actually make him understand that like they were broken up," said Lindsey Briley. "I think that maybe she could have been more stern."
When Egypt told Kenny she was back with Curtis, her sister claims he didn't take it well.
"He called her a bitch, called her a slut, was really upset," said Beth.
The month before her murder, Curtis claims, Kenny showed up at his house early one Sunday morning. He says as usual, Egypt had spent the night.
"I was on the third story and she parked right in the parking lot, which is just right outside my window," said Curtis. "I looked at her car and I noticed his truck parked right behind it, and he was snooping around her vehicle looking in the windows, and just kind of went around it one circle and got in his truck and took off."
Curtis claims Egypt confronted Kenny about it, and he told her he was in the area for work when he noticed her sunroof open in the rain.
What did your gut tell you was going on?
"I thought possibly that he had some kind of tracker," said Curtis Meadows.
Kristin Covington claims her stepdaughter was starting to wonder the same thing.
"She did mention that he was always, when she would go somewhere that he would be there in the background," said Kristin.
The last time anyone saw Egypt and Kenny together was at the Belleville National Strawberry Festival.
"I let her know, 'Listen, Kenny is here with so-and-so.' And she's like 'Oh, really? Where at?'" said Curtis. "'He's by where you get your drinks.'"
Curtis claims the encounter was explosive.
"Out of the corner of my eye I can see her storming up to our table. He was right on her heels, like following her," said Curtis.
Curtis claims Kenny was enraged.
"She said 'He found out that you were moving in,'" said Curtis.
And he was upset about it?
"Yeah, I guess he -- I don't know maybe he felt like he, 'All hope is gone,'" said Curtis. "I never got the feeling that she was threatened by him."
But Egypt's stepmom claims she was in fact scared to tell Kenny that Curtis was moving in.
"She was fearful," said Kristin. "I said 'Do you think that that this could be concerning?' And she said, 'Mom, he's like a lost puppy.' You know, 'I feel bad.' And I said 'Well, we can't always save all lost puppies.'"
Egypt may not have been worried, but her sister Beth was.
"It was very terrifying, like, I was scared for her, I really kept begging her, 'Please stop talking to him,'" said Beth. "She was like, 'I promise, sissy, I'll stop talking to him.'"
As far as anyone knows, the last time Egypt Covington and Kenny Michalak talked was at the strawberry festival.
One week later, Egypt was found shot to death.
Police named Egypt Covington's ex-boyfriend Kenny Michalak as a person of interest in her murder.
Crime Watch Daily went looking for him to see what he's saying about Egypt's murder.
Many people in Egypt Covington's life immediately pointed a finger at Michalak. They allege his temper exploded when he learned Curtis Meadows was moving in with Egypt. Exactly one week later, Curtis found Egypt's body.
In an interesting twist, one of the people who supports Kenny Michalak is Egypt's own mother, Tina Covington. She doesn't believe Michalak was ever abusive toward her daughter.
"She would come to my house and cry. They would get into arguments. He was not abusive to her. I don't care what anybody says. She would have told me, and I've never seen a mark on her," said Tina.
However, in her very next sentence, she seems to confirm some level of abuse in the relationship.
"There might have been an incident of pushing that I had heard about," said Tina.
In the months following her daughter's murder, Tina even allowed Kenny to babysit Egypt's dog Ruby.
"He loves Ruby," said Tina. "I know Egypt would've let him have Ruby. She let him take her anytime, and I just couldn't say no."
But that upset your family?
"Yeah. Yeah. And it wasn't that I was trying to do anything, except he had to be suffering," said Tina.
Why do you think they feel so strongly that he was involved, and you feel so strongly he wasn't?
"You know, I was raised to believe that you don't ruin somebody's life without proof," said Tina.
Our interview with Tina Covington came weeks before cops officially named Kenny Michalak a person of interest in Egypt Covington's murder.
But that hasn't changed Tina's opinion. She believes after nine months, cops simply felt pressured to name someone.
"I don't want to be judgmental with it, but I think we have a small department," said Tina. "If they've come to a spot where they can't get any further evidence, I think they need to do the right thing and turn it over to the state police, or somebody else."
She feels other potential suspects are being overlooked.
"She worked in a job that everybody loved her, but she also was in a field that anybody could have followed her home," said Tina.
Do you think that whoever killed your daughter was a random person?
"I think that Egypt was in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Tina.
But it was her house.
"I know," said Tina.
She claims Egypt no longer felt safe in her own home.
"She lived in a duplex. There was so much traffic going next door. And that's all I'm going say," said Tina.
But cops in Van Buren Township tell Crime Watch Daily that currently Kenny Michalak is their only person of interest in the case.
Now that police have named Egypt's ex-boyfriend a person of interest in her murder, we have some questions for him. With so many accusations flying, Crime Watch Daily tracked Michalak down at the home he now shares with a new girlfriend to see if he'd talk with us.
We recorded audio of our conversation.
"I don't mind answering questions, they just have to go through my lawyer."
But you've been named a person of interest in her murder.
"I don't know, I'd have to talk to my lawyer."
When's the last time you saw her?
"Can you take all the questions to my lawyer please?"
Yeah, but is there anything you can tell us? We've been told by her family and friends that you were abusive toward her.
"Oh no, I was not."
Kenny Michalak denied ever abusing Egypt Covington, but didn't want to talk about her murder.
In a statement to Crime Watch Daily, Kenny Michalak's lawyer Dan Geherin writes:
"Van Buren Township Police noted in their recent press release that my client 'was not currently in communication with the department,' which is a bit misleading. He fully cooperated with police, interviewed with them on multiple occasions, provided a full timeline of his whereabouts during the days surrounding Ms. Covington's death, and has remained in town the entire 10 months of this investigation. Further, since being retained to represent him in late-June 2017, I have reached out to and spoken with Van Buren Township Police on dozens of occasions asking for updates and seeing if they needed anything from us."
He goes on: "To be certain he continues to maintain his absolute innocence regarding anything to do with Ms. Covington's death, as he has from the very beginning."
And yet, beyond publicly naming Michalak in this still-unfolding case, investigators have taken another rather strategic step: advising people who have donated billboards where to place them to help solve Egypt's murder. We spotted several in Michalak's neighborhood, even on his street.
Are you hoping that that is pressuring this person, keeping this crime in the foremost of their mind?
"This is where I break from what my daughter would want me to say, but I hope the killer walks by there, drives by there, and gets so aggravated that they put a gun in their mouth and take care of it for all of us," said Chuck Covington.
For Egypt's boyfriend Curtis Meadows, the billboards serve as a painful reminder of what he lost.
"Sometimes I just put my hand over my heart. Sometimes I blow them a kiss. Sometimes a little saying that 'I got you, Egypt, I got you,'" said Curtis.
One thing everyone in Egypt's life agrees on: Her killer must be brought to justice.
"My sister deserved better than this. And my sister deserves justice. We deserve to know what happened," said Jessica Covington.
"I think that the police are doing everything they can," said Beth Covington. "I really and truly believe that, and I know that when they make that arrest that it's going to stay."
But sadly, even when that day comes, it won't do anything to fix the hole that's left in their hearts by Egypt's absence.
"She is irreplaceable," said Curtis Meadows. "This world is less without her in it, and that's what hurts the most."
Investigators tell Crime Watch Daily they're waiting on the results of "sensitive DNA testing" to come back, and they believe it will go a long way in helping to bring Egypt's killer to justice. We will of course provide updates on those results.
**If you know anything about Egypt Covington's murder, contact Crime Stoppers of Michigan at (800) SPEAK-UP.