The trial of a sex offender charged with kidnapping, raping and killing a 9-year-old girl will be held in February in Miami, where officials hope it will be easier to find a fair jury, Citrus County court officials said Tuesday.

Jury selection for John Evander Couey's trial in Tavares in Lake County, Fla., was abandoned in July after three days when it became clear that too many prospective jurors had been exposed to media reports or other discussions of the case.

Circuit Judge Ric Howard had already moved jury selection to Tavares, about 50 miles east of Citrus County's Homosassa, Fla., where Jessica Lunsford lived and was killed, because of publicity surrounding the case.

Couey, 48, has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, sexual battery on a child, kidnapping and burglary in the slaying of Jessica Lunsford, whose body was found in March 2005, about a month after she disappeared from her home near the mobile home where Couey had been living.

Her hands were tied with speaker wire and her fingers poked through the garbage bags in which authorities say she was buried alive.

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