John Evander Couey, the drifter arrested in the rape and murder of a 9-year-old Florida girl, admitted to investigators he buried her alive three days after he abducted her, according to newly released prosecution documents.
In his confession, Couey told investigators he kept Jessica in a closet in his room while the Citrus County Sheriff's Office set up a command center not far from his home. He told detectives Jessica was alive when investigators came to the door while questioning neighbors about her disappearance.
"For some reason, they came to our house but they didn't come in and search, but I wish they would have cause they would have found her, but they didn't," he said.
Couey told detectives he placed her inside a garbage bag and that she lay down in the hole without a fight. The medical examiner listed the cause of death as suffocation.
Couey admitted to consuming drugs and alcohol, saying he was foggy on the day he abducted Jessica. He also told detectives that he cooked her a hamburger and made her urinate in the closet to aviod being seen by his housemates. Couey told detectives that he allowed her to watch television through the slightly opened closet door and claimed she was aware of news reports about the search for her.
At the end of his statements to detectives, he said he wished he could go back and change things. "You know what I am?...I'm a convicted child molester. I didn't know what to do. You know, I got scared. I panicked. I feel guilty about it now, but it's too late, you know, and I do feel for her parents."
Florida House Passes Jessica Lunsford Act
Florida lawmakers have moved forward on a bill named for Jessica Lunsford that would impose tougher penalties on sex offenders. On Tuesday, April 19, 2005, the Florida House unanimously approved the Jessica Lusford Act. On a 118-0 vote, the Florida House passed legislation that would require longer prison sentences, lifetime probation and electronic monitoring for sex offenders convicted of crimes against children. The Jessica Lunsford Act would punish the molestation of children under 12 with a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life, "followed by probation or community control for the remainder of the person's natural life and subject to a system of active electronic monitoring." The bill would also make it a third-degree felony in Florida to harbor a sex offender. The passage of the Jessica Lunsford Act in the Florida House came just weeks after new information about Jessica's abduction and murder was released.
Police in Citrus County, Florida found the body of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford early on the morning of Saturday, March 19th. She had been buried in the back yard of the home of John Couey's sister, where the registered sex offender had been staying. That home is less than a hundred yards from the Lunsford home.
The Citrus County Sheriff's Office says Couey has confessed to abducting and killing Jessica.
According to deputies, Couey's name first came up when authorities were investigating known sexual offenders in the area. Couey has been charged with capital murder, burglary, kidnapping, and sexual battery on a child under the age of 12.
While Couey was set to go to trial in February 2006, a judge pushed back Couey's court date. Instead, the trial is set to start on July 10, 2006. Defense attorneys say it is a complicated case and will take them extra time to prepare.