Abducted Fla. Girl May Have Been Alive When Officers Questioned Suspect
POSTED: 4:50 am EDT April 8, 2005
UPDATED: 9:22 am EDT April 8, 2005
HOMOSASSA, Fla. -- A chronology offered by a registered sex offender who confessed to abducting and killing a 9-year-old neighbor indicates she may have been alive when officers initially visited the home where the man was staying, according to court documents.
John Evander "Couey's timeline of the events after he kidnapped Jessica Lunsford leaves open the possibility that she was alive and in the house at the time of the first and possibly the second interview," said the documents released Thursday.
Citrus County sheriff's deputies canvassed the girl's neighborhood after her father reported her missing from her bed Feb. 24 and made two stops at the home of Couey's half-sister. No suspicions were raised, but detectives say Couey later told them he was hiding in the house during the second interview.
Couey, 46, who pleaded not guilty to murder Wednesday, had been staying off and on at the mobile home visible about 150 yards from the girl's home.
He has denied "that anyone else in the house was aware that he had kidnapped the child or that she was being held in the house," according to court papers.
Sheriff Jeff Dawsy has said that Couey was in a "drug haze" during the abduction. The victim was sexually assaulted and buried near the mobile home.
Couey was arrested March 17 in Augusta, Ga., and his four Homosassa housemates were arrested the next day. Prosecutors did not pursue obstruction charges after concluding they lacked legal grounds to support charges based on the housemates' interviews during the prolonged search.
"Florida does not have a statute which makes it a crime to lie to a police officer in all situations, nor is there a law which requires a person to disclose the whereabouts of a registered sex offender," prosecutors wrote in a newly disclosed memo.
"I believe these individuals truly obstructed this agency's criminal investigation into Jessica's death," Dawsy said in a statement faxed Thursday to the St. Petersburg Times.
Couey was staying with his half-sister Dorothy Marie Dixon, her boyfriend Matthew Oley Dittrich, her daughter Madie Catherine Secord and her husband Gene Secord.
On the first stop, Dittrich gave his name but didn't say Couey was staying there because he knew Couey was wanted on a misdemeanor probation violation. On the second visit, investigators spoke to Dittrich and Dixon.
Jessica's father Mark Lunsford and Dawsy have traveled to Tallahassee to urge legislators to change state law to make it a felony to harbor a sex offender without notifying law enforcement. Other proposals would mandate life sentences or lifetime electronic monitoring for child molesters.
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