The murdered 9-year-old girl's body is found, and her parents speak out

By People Staff
Updated March 18, 2005 07:05 PM

Police found 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford’s body early Saturday morning in a wooded area of Florida where confessed killer John Evander Couey said he had dumped it.

Jessica’s father, Mark Lunsford, made a statement to reporters: “Everyone heard me say, time after time, that she would be home. She’s home now.”

During a Sunday news conference, Mark called for stricter laws to prevent convicted sex offenders from returning to society where they could hurt children. And he said Couey deserves the death penalty.

On Monday, Couey was charged with capital murder, burglary, kidnapping and sexual battery. He was scheduled to be arraigned on the charges Tuesday.

Friday night, Jessica’s mother, Angela Bryant, said of Couey, “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 children out there and my daughter, he will pay.”

Authorities announced Friday that Couey, 46, a convicted sex offender, confessed to killing Jessica, who disappeared three weeks ago. Couey admitted kidnapping and killing Jessica after taking a lie-detector test, Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy said.

“At the end of the polygraph, (Couey) said, ‘You don’t have to tell me the results. I know what they are, He apologized to the investigators for wasting their time.”

Couey had been staying at a Homosassa Springs, Fla., home near where Lunsford lived with her divorced father, Mark, 41, and her grandparents when she went missing on Feb. 23.

The bedroom where Lunsford was last seen was virtually undisturbed, with no signs of a struggle. The only things known to be missing were the pink nightgown the third-grader wore to bed and a stuffed purple dolphin she often slept with.

The door to the screened porch near Lunsford’s room was slashed, but the sliding glass doors leading from the porch to the house were locked. The front door, however, was unlocked.

“I just keep wondering what I could have done to prevent this,” Lunsford’s grandmother Ruth said after her granddaughter’s disappearance.

Couey is registered in Citrus County as a sex offender but wasn’t living at the address he had given authorities, sheriff’s department spokeswoman Ronda Hemminger Evan told reporters.

Sheriff Dawsy said detectives have been concerned about Couey because of his criminal history spanning more than three decades and 24 arrests, including burglary, carrying a concealed weapon and indecent exposure.

He was arrested Thursday in Augusta, Ga., on a probation violation, and police called him a “person of interest” in the Lunsford case.

Couey pleaded guilty to 1991 felony charges of sex offense against a child, fondling a child under 16, and lewd and lascivious conduct in Kissimmee, Florida.