February trial set for Jessica Lunsford slaying suspect / VIDEO
The Associated Press
Posted July 22 2005, 11:33 AM EDT
INVERNESS -- A sex offender accused of kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford earlier this year will go on trial Feb. 6, the judge said.
Prosecutors say the trial of John Evander Couey, 46, could last three weeks, including a possible penalty phase to seek a death sentence if Couey is convicted of first-degree murder.
Couey's defense is expected to request a change of venue, and both sides believe the trial will be moved from Citrus County because of pretrial publicity. The defense also is expected to try to have Couey's alleged confession thrown out as evidence because he requested a lawyer before the statement but wasn't provided one.
Couey's public defenders have declined comment on the case.
Investigators say Couey kidnapped Jessie from her bedroom the night of Feb. 23 and held her captive for several hours to several days in a nearby mobile home he shared with other adults, including his half sister.
Although he has pleaded not guilty, authorities say Couey admitted to the crime March 18, the day after he was arrested in Augusta, Ga., and told them he buried the third-grader alive behind the mobile home where he lived.
An autopsy showed she had been sexually assaulted and died of suffocation.
In documents released this week, Couey's half sister, Dorothy Dixon, told investigators Couey exposed himself and inappropriately touched to her daughter. Others have raised similar allegations.