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Judge: Florida girl's killing 'beyond words'

Arraignment for John Couey set for April 11


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John Couey appeared via video link before a Florida judge.
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John Couey to be arraigned in Florida.

A look at the long criminal history of John Couey.

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Jessica Lunsford

LECANTO, Florida (CNN) -- John Evander Couey made his first appearance in court Tuesday on charges of murdering 9-year-old Jessica Marie Lunsford, with the judge telling the 46-year-old his alleged crimes are "beyond words."

Couey, with his hands cuffed, appeared via video link before Citrus County Judge Mark Yerman, who was in Inverness, the county seat.

Couey was charged Monday with capital murder, burglary with battery, kidnapping and sexual battery on a child less than 12 years of age.

Authorities found Jessica's body Saturday, buried behind the home of Couey's half sister in Homosassa, north of Tampa.

Couey will be asked to enter a plea at his arraignment scheduled for April 11. The judge said Tuesday's court appearance was to advise Couey of the charges, advise him of his rights and inform him that bond was denied.

"This is an infamous case here," Yerman said. "The acts that you are accused of and apparently confessed to are really beyond words."

Yerman asked Couey if he needed a public defender.

"Yeah, I need one; yes, sir," Couey said.

Couey replied "No, sir," when asked if he had any income and any assets.

Couey -- a convicted sex offender with a 30-year criminal history -- is being held at the Citrus County jail, away from the general inmate population for his own safety.

"If we could just, for one day, use the electric chair, I would like that," Jessica's father, Mark Lunsford said. "Somebody needs to kill him."

Jessica Lunsford was asphyxiated, a medical examiner's report said Monday.

Mark Lunsford said there will be a private family funeral on Thursday, followed by another service on Friday for family and friends. He said a public memorial service will be Saturday at 1 p.m. at Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church in Crystal River.

Couey made a court appearance Sunday on two other charges -- failure to comply with sex-offender registration requirements and a probation violation.

Police say he has confessed to abducting, killing and burying Jessica.

"I don't believe everything he has told us," Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy said Monday. "I think he was in a drug-induced haze for a portion of the time.

"We may never have a true timeline," he said. "There were two people that knew -- Jessica, who's gone, and this individual, Couey, and because of his state with drugs, he was all over the place."

The sheriff and other sources said the suspect entered the house during the night of February 23, made his way to Jessica's room, covered her mouth, ordered her to remain quiet and forced her to leave.

"There was no forced entry. The residence was unsecured," Dawsy said of the home where Jessica lived with her grandparents and father.

Couey may have held her captive for a day or two, investigators said.

Investigators awaited results of a test on evidence from the home where Couey was staying, and officials have informed the girl's family about the details surrounding Jessica's death.

"Actually, it was a relief because I don't have to wonder," said Mark Lunsford.

He said he is spearheading an effort to change the law to keep repeat sexual offenders incarcerated. "There should be a law for Jesse," Lunsford said.

CNN's Sara Dorsey contributed to this report.


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