Florida Man Sentenced to Death for Raping and Murdering 9-Year-Old Nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford disappeared from her bedroom during the night of February 23, 2005. Police found no sign of forced entry, no signs of a struggle, and nothing disturbed except for an unlocked front door and a missing stuffed dolphin Jessica’s father had won for her at a state fair. A search for Jessica was immediately organized, conducted by state and federal agencies, canine units, and hundreds of volunteers. It ended about three weeks later, after convicted sex-offender John Couey confessed to abducting and burying the girl. Her body was found in a grave in the backyard of Couey’s sister's mobile home, about 60 yards from where Jessica lived with her father and her grandparents in the same park. Authorities believed that the girl was kept in the mobile home for several days before she was killed. Her blood was found on a mattress and her fingerprints were discovered at the location. Jessica was buried alive, wrapped in two black plastic garbage bags and her hands bound with speaker wire. She held the stuffed dolphin in her arms. John Couey pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, sexual battery on a child, kidnapping and burglary. In March 2007, a Miami jury convicted him and he was sentenced to death. Jessica's father, wearing a tie with her photo on it, cried when asked by the reporters about the verdict. "I’m grateful that the outcome was what it was." John Evander Couey died in 2009 at the age of 51. His death, attributed to natural causes, occurred while he was still sitting on death row. Jessica’s father, Mark Lunsford, led a national crusade for harsher sentences for child murderers. A number of states have passed new laws on sex offenders. On May 2, 2005, Florida Govenor Jeb Bush signed the Jessica Lunsford Act, which increased penalties for sexual crimes against children. For information and tips on how to protect your children online, see Travis Morgan’s book titled “Catch Me If You Know How - Internet Edition” or visit the “Catch Me If You Know How” website at http://www.CatchMeIfYouKnowHow.com.
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