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Dad to child killer: 'My daughter has heard me cry'

  • Story Highlights
  • Mark Lunsford testifies at sentencing hearing for 9-year-old daughter's killer
  • Jury recommended death for John Evander Couey
  • Couey was convicted of kidnapping, raping, killing Jessica Lunsford
  • Couey's attorney says he's mentally incompetent
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(CNN) -- Looking directly at the man who murdered his 9-year-old daughter, Mark Lunsford told John Evander Couey, "I hope you hear her cry as you try to sleep at night."

"You will never hurt another child again," Lunsford said in testimony Tuesday in a Florida court hearing where a judge will decide whether to give Couey the death penalty.


Jessica Lunsford, seen in an undated family photo, was 9 when she was abducted and killed. She disappeared in 2005 from her home in Homosassa, Florida.

His eyes fixed on Couey, Lunsford continued, "For 29 months, my daughter has heard me cry and begged God to stop the pain in my heart."

Addressing Florida Circuit Court Judge Ric Howard, Lunsford pleaded for Couey to die for his crime. Then he turned back to the man who took his daughter. Video Watch Lunsford's emotional testimony »

"I hope you see the tears at night when she asked you [if she could] go home. You will never hurt another child again."

Lunsford spent much time talking about memories of Jesse Lunsford.

"I can remember when she was about 1 year old and would give me kisses and hugs and steal the raisins from my cereal," he said.

"From bumps to bruises, from Band-Aids to bicycles, she was a tomboy with her daddy and a very nice little lady for her grandmother."

The hearing will continue Wednesday.

Couey's attorneys are trying to convince Howard that Couey is mentally incompetent and should be spared the death penalty.

"That's a cop-out," Lunsford said Tuesday on Larry King Live. "He is not retarded."

The father said he wants Couey to die for his crime. King asked him if he would attend the execution by lethal injection. "I'd hold the syringe if they'd let me," he answered.

But a prosecution expert testified Tuesday that the convicted killer had an IQ of between 80 and 90, about low average.

"My opinion is that he is not mentally retarded," said Dr. Greg Pritchard, a clinical psychologist.

Couey was convicted in March on charges of kidnapping, raping and murdering Jessica.

The jury voted 10-2 to recommend the death penalty. In Florida, the vote does not have to be unanimous to recommend the death penalty.

The judge is expected to sentence Couey next month.

Jessica Lunsford disappeared in February 2005 from her home in Homosassa. Her body was found three weeks later in a shallow grave outside a mobile home about 100 yards from where she lived.

Couey, a convicted sex offender, was staying nearby in a trailer with his half-sister. Couey kidnapped the girl from her bedroom and later, in a taped confession, admitted that he buried the child alive. "I went out there one night and dug a hole and put her in it. Buried her," he said.

She was found wrapped in garbage bags, holding a stuffed toy dolphin, her hands bound with stereo wire. Jessica died from asphyxiation after being sexually assaulted, according to a medical examiner's report.

The judge ruled the confession was inadmissible in court because Couey had asked for a lawyer the day before he told police he committed the crime.

Evidence at the trial included Jessica's fingerprints in a closet in Couey's trailer and DNA from Jessica's blood and Couey's semen on a mattress in his bedroom.

Lunsford has led a push for stricter sex offender laws since his daughter's death.


Then-Gov. Jeb Bush signed the Jessica Lunsford Act into Florida law. The 2005 legislation calls for prison sentences of 25 years to life for sex offenses against children under age 12, better registration of convicted sex offenders and a Global Positioning System notification mechanism to track down probation violators.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed similar legislation Monday. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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