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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Convict Child rapist/murderer John Couey Dead

Right: John Evander Couey

(CNN) -- A Florida death-row inmate convicted of abducting and murdering 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford in 2005 has died, prison officials said Wednesday.

September 30, 2009

John Evander Couey, 51, died at 11:15 a.m. ET of natural causes, a Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman told CNN. He had been taken to a Jacksonville, Florida, hospital from Florida State Prison in Starke, Florida...A source close to the case told CNN that Couey's death was not unexpected and he had been ill for some time.

"I never dreamed it would happen like this," Jessica's father, Mark Lunsford, told CNN...He said he was sad when he heard the news of Couey's death. "To me, death is sad," he said. "But her death, Jessie's death, has been redeemed ... I'm relieved. I'm glad it's over with."

Couey was sentenced to die in August 2007 for abducting and raping Lunsford, then killing her by burying her alive. The girl was snatched from her bed in her family's Homosassa, Florida, home the evening of February 23, 2005, by Couey, a registered sex offender. Her body was found three weeks later, buried at the home of Couey's half-sister, who lived within sight of the Lunsford home...

"I am not shedding any tears," the girl's grandmother, Ruth Lunsford, said on Wednesday. "I don't feel sorry for him. I think God said, 'John Couey, it's time to go.' " "I don't feel sorry for him that he had to suffer," she said. "He didn't have any mercy on my granddaughter when he murdered her. I'm glad we didn't have to wait years and years for his appeals and execution, and the taxpayers no longer have to pay for him. I'm glad that God took a hand in it."

...In sentencing Couey, Judge Ric Howard noted Couey became fearful of police dogs being used in the area in the search for the girl. He told Lunsford he was planning to take her home, but did not want her to be seen, and so persuaded her to get into a trash bag. He then knotted another trash bag over her head, placed her in a hole and shoveled dirt on top of her. Jurors convicted Couey of first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual battery on a child under 12 in March 2007.
...The judge also noted that Couey made "crude, vulgar and repulsive" comments to police after his arrest regarding his sexual assault of the girl, and the judge quoted Couey as saying the media was blowing the case out of proportion -- "This kind of thing happens every day."

Lunsford's slaying sparked national outrage and led to stricter Florida laws regarding registration and supervision of released sexual predators, following a push led largely by her father, Mark Lunsford.

Speaking after Couey's sentencing, Mark Lunsford referenced Couey's earlier comments in which he said that when he got to heaven, he would apologize to his victim. "I have bad news," Mark Lunsford said. "I don't think you're going to make it there."...

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