Lunsford Suspect Charged With Murder

A convicted sex offender who officials say confessed to the murder of 9-year-old Jessica Marie Lunsford (search) was formally charged Monday with her abduction and death by asphyxiation.

John Evander Couey (search), 46, was charged with capital murder, battery, kidnapping and sexual battery on a child under the age of 12, according to the Citrus County Sheriff's Office. His arraignment was set for Tuesday.

Officials say he confessed to kidnapping and killing Jessica after taking a lie-detector test in Georgia. The girl's body was found early Saturday, more than three weeks after she vanished from her bedroom.

Medical examiners determined that Jessica died from asphyxiation (search), the arrest report said.

"The defendant stated that he knew the victim was dead and that everyone would know that he did it after the body was found," the arrest report said.

Sheriff Jeff Dawsy didn't comment on the charges. The Lunsford family also declined to comment.

Dawsy and the girl's father, Mark Lunsford (search), previously said they would urge prosecutors seek the death penalty.

"I don't believe you have two chances when you get involved with a young child," Dawsy told ABC's "Good Morning America" early Monday.

Couey entered the Lunsford house through an unlocked door and later sexually assaulted her, Dawsy said. Because Couey was under the influence of drugs, detectives might never know how long she was held before she was slain, he said.

Jessica's body was found near a mobile home where Couey had been staying at the time of the abduction.

Jessica, a third grader, was last seen the night of Feb. 23 when she went to bed after attending church. She was discovered missing the next morning. 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.

The 5-foot-4, 120 pound Couey was extradited to Florida early Sunday and booked on a probation violation and failure to register his change of address as required as a sex offender. He has been held without bond.

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.

Down the street from the Lunsford home, well-wishers have piled dozens of stuffed animals, flowers and candles high on a makeshift memorial. "God's newest little angel," one sign read.