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Law

Suspect in Florida girl's death pleads not guilty


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Florida
Jessica Lunsford

(CNN) -- The man accused of sexually assaulting and murdering a 9-year-old Florida girl has entered written pleas of not guilty following a grand jury indictment.

John Evander Couey, 46, is scheduled to appear before a Citrus County, Florida, judge next week for a formal arraignment on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Jessica Lunsford. Couey also is charged with burglary with battery, kidnapping and sexual battery on a child less than 12 years of age.

A grand jury indicted Couey on those charges last Friday.

Couey entered his pleas Monday.

Prosecutor Pete Magrino said the county state's attorney's office has filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty.

Couey's public defender, Daniel Lewan, could not be reached for comment, but his office released this statement from Lewan:

"Mr. Couey and his attorney's have decided that they should not communicate at this time. Accordingly, Mr. Couey has invoked his constitutional right to remain silent."

Couey is alleged to have taken Jessica from her Homosassa home on the night of February 23.

The Citrus County sheriff's office says Couey confessed to abducting, sexually assaulting and murdering the child, and then burying her body behind the home of his half sister, within sight of her own home.


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