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Suspected Child Killer Couey in Court

The registered sex offender who authorities say confessed to kidnapping and slaying 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford (search) was returned to Florida in shackles Sunday and the little girl's father said he wished he could confront the killer.

John Evander Couey (search) was booked early Sunday on a probation violation and failure to register as a sex offender, according to officials. He was being held without bail.

Couey, 46, confessed to kidnapping and killing Jessica after taking a lie-detector test Friday in Georgia, officials said. The girl's body was found early Saturday, more than three weeks after she disappeared from her bedroom.

Jessica's father, in an emotional statement, expressed a desire to mete out justice of his own.

"I won't get the wish, but I wish I could see him, just one time," said Mark Lunsford (search), his eyes hidden by dark sunglasses.

Lunsford said he and his relatives would soon begin planning Jessica's funeral.

Couey had not been charged in her death, although that was expected soon.

"If he's not charged today, he probably will be tomorrow," sheriff's spokeswoman Ronda Hemminger Evan told The Associated Press. "It shouldn't take that long."

At Jessica's church on Sunday, the pastor asked for prayers for the Lunsfords.

"Lord, we're a troubled community today," the Rev. William LaVerle Coats said. "We're a troubled church, a troubled family."

He asked the 175 members at the Faith Baptist Church service to forgive Couey.

The service was held shortly after Couey appeared before Circuit Judge Stephen Spivey at the Citrus County Detention Center. He was declared indigent and was told a public defender would be assigned to his case.

He answered that he was doing "all right," when Spivey asked how he was. Couey answered all other questions with either "Yes, sir" or "No, sir" replies.

At the end of the hearing, Spivey wished the man luck. "Thank you," Couey said softly, before turning and shuffling away, his shackles clanging together.

Couey was being held in isolation at the jail for his safety, Hemminger Evan said. She added that, as a precaution, the timing of his arrival from Georgia was kept under wraps although the sheriff's office was not aware of any threats against Couey.

Jessica, a third grader, was last seen in February when she went to bed after attending church. She was discovered missing the next morning, with the door unlocked and her stuffed animal gone. The clothes she had laid out for school were still in place, and her shoes weren't missing.

Her body was found near a mobile home where Couey had been staying at the time of the abduction about 150 yards from Jessica's house.

Couey's half-sister and two others who lived in the home were charged with obstructing police for failing to notify authorities when Couey allegedly told them he had committed a crime.

Couey was arrested in Augusta, Ga., on a probation violation for failing to notify officials that he was leaving Florida, a requirement for sex offenders.

He has an extensive criminal record that includes 24 burglary arrests, carrying a concealed weapon and indecent exposure. In 1991, he was arrested in Kissimmee on a charge of fondling a child under age 16. Records don't show how the case was resolved.

During a house burglary in 1978, Couey was accused of grabbing a girl in her bedroom, placing his hand over her mouth and kissing her, Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy said. Couey was sentenced to 10 years in prison but was paroled in 1980.

On Saturday, about 300 people jammed the Living Water Church near Lebanon, Ohio, to show their support for Angela and Lonnie Bryant, Jessica's mother and stepfather.

"To see all of you people here puts a little bit in my heart — and my heart is so empty," Angela Bryant said. She tried to talk to reporters but broke down and rushed from the building.