Investigation[ edit ] Nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford disappeared in the night on February 24,from her home in Homosassa, Florida. After approximately three weeks of intense searching for her around the area of her home, John Evander Couey was arrested in SavannahGeorgiafor an outstanding warrant of cannabis possession, but was released after questioning because it was only a local warrant.
Due to the laws at the time, Couey received only short sentences and was not monitored after release, despite his record of being an experienced trespasser and his repeated sexual offenses against children. On March 12, Couey was arrested in Augusta, Georgiaat the request of the Citrus County Sheriff's Office, for questioning about Jessica Lunsford's disappearance due to his residence on West Snowbird Court in I, only 65 yards from the Lunsford's home, and his criminal record.
Couey stated he did not have anything to do with the nine-year-old's disappearance and had moved to Georgia to find a job, only knowing about it from the television news. During the search a blood-stained mattress and pillows were found in Couey's closet in his room, and forensic analysis discovered both Couey's and Lunsford's DNA on the mattress.
Couey's confession[ edit ] John Couey On March 18,Couey made an audio-recorded and videotaped confession to having kidnappedraped and murdered Lunsford. Couey put her in his closet and ordered her to remain there, which she did as he reported for work at "Billy's Truck Lot". He instead buried her alive as he decided he could do nothing else with the girl. Orlanco said he "Didn't want people seeing him and Lunsford across the street. Lunsford's body was removed from the ground and transported to the coroner's office, where it was recorded to have undergone "moderate" to "severe" decomposition.
According to the publicly released autopsy reports, Lunsford had poked two fingers through the bags before suffocating to death, and the fingers had skeletonized. The coroner ruled that death would have happened orlandi in best circumstances within 2—3 minutes from lack of oxygen.
Additionally, Dixon and the other residents of the trailer claimed to have never seen Lunsford at the home or noticed anything strange from Couey's room, which had not been used since he was last there. Over Couey's objection, the trial court ruled that all evidence collected after the confession, including the recovery of Lunsford's body, would be admitted, as would incriminating statements allegedly made by Couey to investigators and a jail guard.
The jury deliberated for four hours, tasked with recommending either life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty, the only two possible sentences available under Florida law.
A week later, after about one hour and 15 minutes of deliberation, a jury recommended Couey be put to death. The case was appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.
On August 11,a jury overseeing the Lunsford case voted that Couey be eligible for the death sentence. Defense for Couey argued that he had suffered from a lifetime of emotional abuse and had a below normal IQwhich would enable him to avoid a death sentence under a Supreme Court ruling prohibiting the execution of mentally handicapped people.
However, the most credible intelligence test rated Couey's Ni at 78, above the standard accepted level of mental retardationwhich is However, on September 30,before the sentences could be carried out, Couey died of natural causes.