"Person of Interest" in Missing Girl Case Arrested - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

03/17/05

"Person of Interest" in Missing Girl Case Arrested

The search for the "person of interest" in a missing girl case from Florida is over tonight. Johnny Couey is now in police custody. Police caught the registered sex offender in Augusta, Georgia, this morning.

There was a feeling he was still in Savannah. Saturday, Savannah-Chatham police caught up with the 46-year-old at the Salvation Army shelter on Montgomery Street. They took him in, questioned him, but were forced to let him go because there was no warrant for his arrest.

Yesterday, new information caused authorities to look for Couey once again. He was "person of interest" in the disappearance of nine-year-old Florida girl Jessica Lunsford. There was no sign of him in Savannah, but police did find him at a Salvation Army shelter in Augusta around 10am this morning.

Citrus County sheriff Jeff Dawsy says they are following 40 leads, including Couey. "Right now, John Couey is one of the hot leads," he said. "We are just trying to rule him out of the mix."

Couey apparently left Savannah sometime Tuesday and has been staying in Augusta the last two days. He was arrested because, as a registered sex offender, he was supposed to notify Florida police he was leaving. He didn't do that.

We have also learned Couey has a history of living in Savannah dating back to 1987 and as recently as 2001. His family has said when Couey gets in trouble, he comes back to Savannah.

He apparently was staying at a home a few houses away from where nine-year-old Jessica disappeared.

Reported by: Don Logana, dlogana@wtoc.com

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