- The Washington Times - Friday, March 18, 2005

HOMOSASSA, Fla. (AP) — A registered sex offender has admitted kidnapping a 9-year-old Florida girl from her bedroom last month and killing her, authorities said yesterday.

“I’ve got my man,” Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy told reporters.

Sheriff Dawsy said John Evander Couey confessed to investigators after taking a lie-detector test. The sheriff said Jessica Lunsford’s body had not been found, but Couey gave them a general area to search.

Authorities cordoned off an area yesterday near the home of Couey’s half-sister, who lived about 150 yards from the home Jessica shared with her father and grandparents. Investigators said Couey sometimes stayed at the home, but Jessica’s father said he had never met him.

Couey, 46, had been named as a “person of interest” in the case but was not initially charged. He was arrested in Augusta, Ga., on Thursday on a probation violation for failing to notify officials that he was moving, a requirement for sex offenders.

Authorities said Couey left Florida on or about March 4, about a week after the girl’s disappearance, after telling relatives that police would be looking for him.

Jessica, a third grader, was last seen when she went to bed Feb. 23 in the home where she lived with her father and grandparents. She was discovered missing the next morning, with an unlocked door and a missing stuffed animal serving as evidence of her disappearance.

Couey has an extensive criminal record that includes arrests for burglary, carrying a concealed weapon and indecent exposure. In 1991, he was arrested in Kissimmee, Fla., 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, Sheriff Dawsy said. Couey was sentenced to 10 years in prison but was paroled in 1980.

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