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Law

Lunsford may have been buried alive

Officials: Couey confessed to investigators


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Sources: Florida girl was held captive for days, then buried alive.
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(CNN) -- A convicted sex offender facing capital murder charges in the killing of a 9-year-old Florida girl told investigators he buried her alive, law enforcement sources told CNN Friday night.

Sources told CNN that investigators were still trying to confirm whether Jessica Marie Lunsford was buried alive as well as other information John Evander Couey provided. Results of the full autopsy are expected in about a month.

The Citrus County Sheriff's Office had no comment. The county is about 50 miles north of Tampa.

Couey, 46, is charged with capital murder, burglary with battery, kidnapping and sexual battery on a child younger than 12.

Officials said he confessed to the crimes. He has a 30-year criminal history, they said.

Lunsford's father discovered her missing from their Homosassa home February 24. Investigators say Couey took the girl from her bedroom the night before.

Her body was found almost a month later -- buried within sight of her own home -- behind the house where Couey was staying with his half-sister.

A preliminary medical examiner's report last month said Jessica died from asphyxiation after being sexually assaulted.

Law enforcement officers and hundreds of volunteers from around the country combed Citrus County for the girl, who lived with her father and grandparents.

Earlier Friday, prosecutors said Lunsford might have been alive when police visited that home twice during a canvass of the neighborhood.

"Couey's timeline of the events after he kidnapped Jessica Lunsford leaves open the possibility that she was alive, and in the house, at the time of the first and possibly the second interview," said a memo released by prosecutors.

Four other people in the half-sister's home were arrested: one on charges of nonpayment of child support and three on suspicion of obstruction of justice.

The latter three people were accused of failing to tell police Couey was living there, even though they knew there was a warrant out for his arrest.

Couey had violated his probation by failing to update his address as required for sex offenders.

Prosecutors say, however, that such a failure by the three people does not constitute a crime.

"There is no statutory provision which requires an individual to notify an officer of the whereabouts of someone for whom there is an outstanding warrant, or of the presence of a sex offender," the memo said.

So far, prosecutors have not filed formal charges against those three.

Police have said there was no evidence they knew of Jessica's kidnapping.

But the memo did note, "had the defendant [one of the three] disclosed Couey's presence in the house, the life of the girl might have been saved."

CNN's Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.


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