Saturday, August 25, 2007

Jessica's killer sentenced to die

John Evander Couey looks up as he sits with Morris Carranza, one of his public defenders,
at the Citrus County Courthouse in Inverness.


INVERNESS -- John Couey will die by lethal injection for the brutal 2005 murder of Jessica Marie Lunsford of Homosassa, a judge ruled today.

The death sentence is something Jessica's family hoped for.

"I think he needs to stand up and be a man now and take his death penalty . . . and I hope he rots in hell," Mark Lunsford said, just a day after his daughter's body was found buried in a shallow grave on March 19, 2005.

Couey, 49, got his death sentence from Circuit Judge Richard Howard at a 2 p.m. sentencing hearing at the Citrus County Courthouse.

Before passing sentence, the judge read his entire order, recounting the gruesome facts of the case in chronological order.

Based on testimony from the trial, Howard explained how Couey confessed to raping Jessica and spoke of the sexual assault in "crude, vulgar and repulsive comments" made to corrections officers. Howard also recounted in detail how Couey bound Jessica's hands with speaker wire, had her step into one black plastic garbage bag, which he knotted over her head, and then slipped another garbage bag over the first one, which he then knotted below her feet before burying her alive in a hole dug behind the mobile home he shared with his sister, Dorothy Dixon.

He described the little girl's death as a "slow, suffering, conscious death" and said a civilized society "recoils in horror" at the suffering Jessica endured at Couey's hands.

Howard had to pause several times during his lengthy recitation to drink water.

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