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The Associated Press Updated: 6:55 a.m. ET March 19, 2005

HOMOSASSA, Fla. - More than three weeks after 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford disappeared from her bedroom, police were searching for her body in a densely wooded area where a registered sex offender said he dumped her body.

John Evander Couey, 46, confessed to kidnapping and killing Jessica after taking a lie-detector test Friday, Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy said.

“At the end of the polygraph, he said, ’You don’t have to tell me the results. I know what they are,”’ Dawsy said. He then asked for investigators to return to the room and "admitted to abducting Jessica and subsequently taking her life," the sheriff said. “He apologized to the investigators for wasting their time.”

Authorities then cordoned off the area near the trailer home of Couey’s half-sister, who lived about 150 yards from the house Jessica shared with her father and grandparents.

Crews worked through the night in temperatures that dipped into the low 40s. Bright search lights were erected around the perimeter, and several candles left from a late-night vigil burned nearby.

No word on anything found
A stream of official vehicles came and went throughout the pre-dawn hours, and a state mobile forensics unit left the scene about 3:30 a.m. Sheriff’s officials remained silent on what, if anything, was found.

About midnight Friday, Dawsy was asked how long he would be at the site.

“Until Jessica is in a better place,” he said.

Jessica’s father, Mark Lunsford, planned to go to the area Saturday morning, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Ronda Hemminger Evan.

“It has been a difficult case for us, but more so for the family,” Hemminger Evan said.

A sheriff’s spokeswoman who answered the phone at the Lunsford home Friday evening said the family declined to make any immediate comment. Mark Lunsford has said the family did not know Couey, who was arrested Thursday.

Jessica’s stepfather, Lonnie Bryant, told The Associated Press by telephone from Ohio that he and the girl’s mother, Angela Bryant, planned to come to Florida soon.

“I’m going through agony right now,” he said.

'He will pay'
At a news conference late Friday, a teary Angela Bryant repeatedly made the same vow: Couey, she said, “will pay.”

“This man’s hurt too many people,” she said. “He’s hurt too many children. And one of them is my daughter. He took her life from her and she didn’t deserve it. He will pay. He will pay. For hurting them children out there and my daughter, he will pay.”

Jessica, a third grader, was last seen when she went to bed in her home Feb. 23. She was discovered missing the next morning, with the door unlocked and her stuffed animal gone. The clothes she had laid out for school were still in place, and her shoes weren’t missing.

More than 100 police and volunteers, with help from bloodhounds and helicopters, searched the area about 60 miles north of Tampa for days following her disappearance. Jessica’s family made emotional appeals on national television for her safe return.

Sex offender disappeared from area
Detectives grew interested in Couey while interviewing all registered sex offenders in the area. They tried to contact Couey at his home in Homosassa five days after Jessica disappeared and discovered he no longer lived there.

When investigators followed up with the half-sister, she denied that Couey had lived with her. But another relative confided to a detective that Couey sometimes stayed at the home.

Authorities said Couey left Florida on or about March 4 after telling relatives that police would be looking for him. He was arrested in Augusta, Ga., on a probation violation for failing to notify officials that he was moving, a requirement for sex offenders. He was awaiting extradition to Florida on Friday.

Couey has an extensive criminal record that includes 24 arrests for burglary, carrying a concealed weapon and indecent exposure. In 1991, he was arrested in Kissimmee on a charge of fondling a child under age 16. Records don’t show how the case was resolved.

During a house burglary in 1978, Couey was accused of grabbing a girl in her bedroom, placing his hand over her mouth and kissing her, Dawsy said. Couey was sentenced to 10 years in prison but was paroled in 1980.



Good work by the police department in this one, look down the list of sex offenders in the area and what do you know, one of them did it. :evil: Anyone that argues that sex offenders are "rehabilitated" after their sentence is truly misguided. The Woburn case with the Level 3 killing the mother and daughter is a prime example.

This is the reason that these scumbags should be pro-actively monitored for life. Whether it is civil commitment, lifetime probation, or something in between. Something should be done to keep tabs on these a**holes more than just registering! But, atleast Massachusetts has a registry and stuck with the legal battles aginst the liberals defending the "privacy rights" of these morons, more than a lot of other states have in place.
 

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These scumbags need to be locked-up for life...or killed out-of-hand. They should never be allowed to mix with the lemmings again. :evil:
 

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It just goes to show you that you are never truly safe, not even in your own home in a sleepy little town. Nothing aggravates me more than the "it could never happen here" mentality. I live in a small town, and every night I go to sleep, all the doors and windows are locked. Not out of fear for myself, but for the safety of my children. They are the most important asset in anyone's life, and should be treated as such. This reprobate that took the breath out of that beautiful little girl should pay with his meaningless life. I'd like to throw the switch and watch the piece of shit fry. He will answer for his actions soon enough.
 

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Here is an update.....I hope they burn this [email protected]@@.


Police: Jessica's remains found
Sheriff says registered sex offender confessed he killed her
Saturday, March 19, 2005 Posted: 10:38 AM EST (1538 GMT)


A teary Mark Lunsford said Saturday his daughter "is home now...right here with me."
Image:


'PERSON OF INTEREST'
John "Johnny" Evander Couey

White male

Born September 19, 1958

5 feet 4 inches, 125 pounds

Blue eyes, gray hair

Goatee

Tattoos on right arm

Criminal history:

Outstanding warrant for violation of probation charge stemming from a 2004 arrest for possession of marijuana under 20 grams and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Arrested multiple times on various charges, including burglary, carrying a concealed weapon, disorderly intoxication, driving under the influence, indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, fraud, insufficient funds and larceny.
Arrested in 1991 on charges of a sex offense, fondling a child under the age of 16.
Registered sexual offender in Citrus County.
Has absconded more than once.
Driver's license suspended for 99 years.

Source: Citrus County Sheriff's Office



HOMOSASSA SPRINGS, Florida (CNN) -- Law enforcement officials announced Saturday that they have found the remains of missing 9-year-old Florida girl Jessica Lunsford.

Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy said searchers recovered what they believe to be the remains of Jessica's body between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. Saturday.

John Evander Couey -- a 46-year-old convicted sex offender -- confessed to kidnapping and killing Jessica after a lie-detector test Friday, Sheriff Dawsy said.

According to police, Couey told them he buried the girl behind his sister's home.


Sheriff Dawsy said that's where Jessica's remains were found.

In announcing that development Saturday, Dawsy called Couey "a piece of trash" and said he wants to see him "get the death penalty."

The sheriff also said police are searching for four people who he says are wanted for possible obstruction of the investigation of Jessica's disappearance.

Jessica has been missing for three weeks from her home in Homosassa, Florida.

Jessica's distraught father said earlier Saturday that his daughter is "home now," but made no reference to the discovery of her remains.

"Everyone heard me say time after time that she would be home," said Mark Lunsford, choking back tears. "Well, she's home now. It's over...She's right here with me."

Lunsford said he wanted to tell all parents to "make sure you get that hug and kiss every day before you leave the house."

On Friday, three weeks after Jessica Lunsford disappeared from her home, authorities said a convicted sex offender who had fled to Georgia confessed to kidnapping and killing her.

As the search for Jessica's body continued under bright lights erected just across the street from her home, police were questioning four people described as associates of Couey, who has a long criminal history.

Dawsy said Couey made the confession after undergoing an FBI-administered polygraph test.

"At the end of the polygraph, he (Couey) says, 'You don't need to tell me the results. I already know what they are,'" Dawsy said.

Couey then asked that investigators come back into the room and "apologized to the investigators for wasting their time," the sheriff said.

"John Couey admitted to abducting Jessica and subsequently taking her life," Dawsy told reporters. "I've got my man ... We are now in a major criminal case."

Law enforcement sources told CNN that Couey said he buried the girl behind his sister's home, located across the street from the Lunsfords, where he had been staying.

Dawsy said Mark Lunsford, and the girl's mother, Angela Bryant, who lives in Ohio, had been notified of the development.

"This is a very tough time, not only for me, it's a very tough time for the family," the sheriff said, his voice cracking.

Bryant, trying to choke back tears, said a police investigator called her with the news of Jessica's death. She planned to travel to Florida Sunday.

"He said that the man that they had been questioning admitted what he had done and he took my daughter's life," she told reporters.

"He will pay, he will pay for hurting those children out there and my daughter. He will pay. He deserves everything he gets coming to him," said Bryant, who said she woke up early Friday "and felt something was wrong."

"I love her. I always have and I always will. ... I'll see her again. I will."

Couey late Friday remained in the custody of authorities in Georgia. Dawsy said he was working with the state's attorney about the extradition process, adding that they have built "a very methodical case."

Sex offender's 'associates' questioned
Citrus County Sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Tierney said four people who were "associates" of Couey were taken to police headquarters Friday evening for questioning, following a lookout posted for them. She did not disclose what significance investigators placed on them.

Outside the home where Couey lived, authorities sealed off the area with yellow crime scene tape and sheriff's deputies could be seen combing the area.

Jessica Marie Lunsford was last seen on February 23 when friends dropped her off after going to church and her grandmother tucked her in to bed for the night in the family's home in Homosassa Springs. She was missing the next morning.

The case had puzzled investigators because there was no sign of forced entry. Jessica's room was intact with no signs of a struggle, but a stuffed animal her dad won for her at a state fair was missing. And except for an unlocked front door, the home where she lived with her father and grandparents was undisturbed.

Arrest made in Georgia
A relative told detectives that Couey left Florida February 28 on a bus -- under an assumed name -- for Savannah, where he was interviewed by police Saturday at a shelter. Savannah police had no jurisdiction to hold him, and he eventually made his way to Augusta, more than 100 miles away where he was arrested at a Salvation Army shelter.

Couey has a criminal record spanning more than three decades and 24 arrests. Interviews with Couey began Thursday in Georgia, when authorities spoke with him for almost four hours, and resumed early Friday. He had been arrested on probation violation charges.

Couey was among a number of sex offenders whom police looked for after Jessica was reported missing, authorities said. When they went to the residence where he was mostly recently registered as living, he could not be found, and authorities determined that he was living with his relatives across from the Lunsford home.

Couey was registered in Citrus County as a sex offender, and under state law, a convicted sex offender must register any change of address.
 

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I was vacationing in Fla. while this incident unfolded. Needless to say put a damper on visiting all the crowded theme parks where these sickos thrive. At a minimun lifetime parole with elec. monitoring, if not lock them up for the sake of the kids. :evil:
 

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If this case doesn't make a great argument for the Dealth Penalty, then nothing will. Thankfully FLA still executes this type of scrum!!!
 
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