Person of Interest in Lunsford Case Returning to Florida - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

03/18/05

Person of Interest in Lunsford Case Returning to Florida

Update: Citrus County sheriff Jeff Dawsy announced at a news conference this evening in Homosassa that Couey took a polygraph test in Augusta, and confessed to authorities that he abducted and killed 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford. The investigation is ongoing.

Johnny Evander Couey is headed back to Florida. The registered sex offender was wanted for questioning in the disappearance of a 9-year-old Florida girl, Jessica Lunsford.

Couey was arrested yesterday in Augusta, and today this "person of interest" in the Lunsford case waived extradition

Citrus County police out of Homosassa, Florida, traveled to Augusta yesterday to question Couey. They say he was cooperative and they were able to develop a rapport with him.

Couey was arrested on a probation violation for leaving Florida without permission. At his hearing today, Couey told a judge he would voluntarily return to Florida.

Police are still calling Couey a person of interest in the missing girl's case, not a suspect.

In Augusta, Richmond County sheriff Ronnie Strength says he is not sure when Couey will be taken back in Florida. He was apparently headed for Tennessee when he made a one-week stop in Savannah, was questioned by police here, let go, and then made his way to Augusta.

Jessica's father, Mark Lunsford, says he does not know and has never seen Johnny Couey and doubts his involvement.

"The sheriff said he just wanted to question him, that was all," Lunsford said. "He didn't say he was a suspect, so I take it as a grain of salt and get back to searching this weekend."

Jessica Lunsford was last seen on February 23, when her grandmother tucked her in to bed for the night in the family's home.

Couey was known to stay at a relative's home a few houses away from Jessica's.

Reported by: Don Logana, dlogana@wtoc.com

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