Keeping Children Safe ~ Jessie’s Story, One I’m Close To

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Services for Real Estate Pros

<I've not written anything in this series lately because this story has been on my mind heavily lately and nothing else could be written until this story was able to be told. (I have one started on Elizabeth Smart, it just wasn't flowing so I put it aside) I could not tell you this story until now because of the facts I know. I began writing this as the trial was in day 2, and I didn't want to make anything I knew public until it was over, that is the Prosecutors job. There was not going to be a mistrial because of me. This is what got the whole series started.>

It is said the eyes are the window to one's soul. This is a true statement, we can tell a person's mood by looking at their eyes. There are happy eyes, sad eyes, twinkling eyes, soulful eyes.. But, have you ever met a person with empty, lost, or even haunted eyes? I have. I met a man just under a year ago who had eyes I just described, but his eyes were empty, there was nothing there.  


You see on February 24, 2005 his 9 yr old daughter had been kidnapped from her room in the middle of the  night, raped and buried alive just yards from her own back door. She suffocated while wrapped in plastic bags, her wrists bound with speaker wire, she had her  purple dolphin close to her chest that her dad just gave her from a recent trip the two of them took to the fair. When they found her in her shallow grave, two of her small fingers were sticking through the plastic bag in a futile effort to escape. She was found 3 weeks after she disappeared. Her name was Jessica Marie Lunsford, her father is Mark Lunsford.

The man that did this to her, John Couey is a repeat sex offender who did not register his new address when he moved in with his sister about 200 yds. from where Jessie lived with her father and grandparents. When the search began for Jessie, the police actually knocked on the door where Couey was staying, Jessie was presumed to be alive at that time. They did not search the residence because they ‘had no reason to'. When the police began to search registered sex offenders in the area (a day or two later) it was then learned that Couey was no longer at his last known address. They then went back to the sister's residence looking for him and learned Couey HAD been there but had fled to GA, with the assistance of his sister, who had paid for his bus ticket. He was arrested in GA, and confessed to the kidnapping, (w/o a lawyer that he has asked for) and told officials where they could find Jessie. She was just 150 yds from her own back door in a shallow grave. Couey was returned to Florida and charged with her murder.

The Trial and Verdict

The 1st trial was called off, the judge decided they could not find a impartial jury Tampa Bay, near Citrus County were Jessica's kidnapping/murder took place. They waited until February and moved the trail to Miami. Tomorrow, (March 7, 07) the jury will go into deliberation, and everyone hopes they will come to a quick guilty verdict. I've been following the trial carefully. The defense has called one witness a psychologist who testified that Couey "isn't very smart and mildly retarded". When I began reading about the trial the paper kept mentioning Couey was coloring during Jury selection or while people were on the stand. The more I think about this the more I think it was a ruse on the part of the defense to make Couey out to be a "idiot". The man was high on crack when he kidnapped Jessie. He is a repeat registered sex offender. That 2nd fact was not mentioned that I know of, but of the evidence the Jury heard and saw and judging from their reactions I believe it is enough to get a guilty verdict. Since I will not post this until the jury comes back with their verdict I will continue this hopefully tomorrow.

3/7/07 11:40AM I am now sitting here watching the blogs awaiting the Judge to send the jury to deliberation. He has just given them instructions and the "definitions of the various crimes", I am assuming of which they have to convict Couey of. I am feeling bit of anxiety right now, I can only imagine how Mark and his parents feel.

3/7/07 4:20 PM The Jury is in and the verdict has been read: Guilty of Murder, Kidnapping Burglary and Rape of a child under the age of 12.

 You're my Angel too Jessie.

You can read about the Couey trail here

 

The following poem is on the Lunsfords back door.  It was left there after Jessie was found.

If Tears Could Build A Stairway

If tears could build a stairway
And memories were a lane
We would walk right up to Heaven
And bring you back again

No farewell words were spoken
No time to say goodbye
You were gone before we knew it
And only God knows why

Our hearts still ache in sadness
And secret tears still flow
What it meant to lose you
No on will ever know

But know we know you want us
To mourn for you no more
To remember all the happy times
Life still has much in store

Since you'll never be forgotten
We pledge to you today
A hallowed place within our hearts
Is where you'll always stay

Author Unknown

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Rainer
132,170
Lysa Napolitano
Daytona Beach, FL

This is a video of Right Here Where You Belong and it is unoffically called "Jessie's Song"  It is written and performed by Toby Bradley.

Thanks TLW and Nick M for the embedded video info!

Mar 07, 2007 07:28 AM #1
Ambassador
593,794
Rich Jacobson
Fathom Realty West Sound - Poulsbo, WA
Your Kitsap County WA Real Estate Broker
Lysa, this has been a heart wrenching story to follow. I watched the televised jury verdict rendering earlier today. Justice can never, ever be fully satisfied in a case like this. Closure rarely comes.
Mar 07, 2007 08:13 AM #2
Rainer
229,396
Sarah Cooper
Real Estate Shows - Hurricane, WV
Lysa, that was just so touching.  I was just talking to my kids at dinner tonight about not going with strangers.  No amount of coaching would have helped in this case.  It's a sad world anymore. 
Mar 07, 2007 08:13 AM #3
Rainer
132,170
Lysa Napolitano
Daytona Beach, FL

Rich, yes you are right. I had tears of relief when the verdict was read, but Jessie will never be back with her father on this earth though. I do have a follow up blog about what her father has been doing to make changes in the laws to try to stop this from happening from other children. I'll post it later this evening or tomorrow.

Sarah, The similarity in this case, Polly Klaas and Elizabeth Smart, being taken from one's home in the middle of the night shows that these predators are not afraid to strut into our homes, nor do they discriminate. We need to be more aware of this but at the same time not have our children petrified of going to sleep at night in their own bed. How does one find a happy medium?

Mar 07, 2007 09:18 AM #4
Rainer
118,729
Bob Sloop, Consultant, Indianapolis, IN
RS Mortgage Consulting - Indianapolis, IN
Oh Lysa, this hurts beyond explanation.  This little girl, nor any other should have this happen to her.  I hope Dad can someday have his eyes filled with joy again, in knowing his little girl is in Heaven, and will be seen again someday.  Gut wrenching to say the least, but I thank you for sharing.  God bless.  Bob
Mar 07, 2007 11:03 PM #5
Rainer
132,170
Lysa Napolitano
Daytona Beach, FL
Bob, yes it does hurt but the story has to be told in order for people to understand that the monsters are out there. I received many phone calls and emails after the verdict was read yesterday and had tears in my eyes most of the afternoon. Mark will never feel the joy of having his daughter close again, but maybe if he gets all the states to pass Jessie's law or laws like it, he will get a sparkle again.
Mar 08, 2007 12:15 AM #6
Rainer
118,729
Bob Sloop, Consultant, Indianapolis, IN
RS Mortgage Consulting - Indianapolis, IN
Lysa, I will be thinking of Mark, and praying that God will please give him the courage and guidance he needs, but most of all, that God will ease the pain, I know this a tough request, but our God does and will hear us.  Thank you again for posting this wonderful, but sad post.
Mar 08, 2007 11:34 AM #7
Rainer
132,170
Lysa Napolitano
Daytona Beach, FL
Bob, you're very welcome. I saw Mark on a interview and he is pleased with the outcome and doing well (at least for the camera). I know God hears us and from what I heard today it looks pretty good that Couey will get the death penalty. Thanks for keeping Mark in your prayers. I'll post next weeks outcome also.
Mar 08, 2007 11:44 AM #8
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