SPRINGFIELD, Ohio – The son of a man who became a national crusader for tougher sex-offender laws after his 9-year-old daughter was kidnapped, raped and killed has been accused of sexual conduct with a minor, authorities said.
Joshua Lunsford, 18, son of Mark Lunsford, was arrested May 18 after a woman accused him of fondling her 14-year-old daughter twice, at a skating rink and outside a shopping mall, according to police. He has pleaded not guilty to the felony charge.
Mark Lunsford's daughter, Jessica, was kidnapped from the bedroom of her Florida home in February 2005, raped and buried alive. The exact family relationship between Joshua and Jessica was unclear Wednesday night.
After his daughter was killed, Mark Lunsford traveled the country, testifying before state legislators on bills that would toughen laws against sex offenders that prey on young children. More than a dozen states have passed versions of Jessica's Law.
The girl Joshua Lunsford is accused of fondling was a willing participant in the contact in March, according to a statement by the girl's mother to the German Township Police Department. Ohio law prohibits anyone 18 or older from having sexual contact with anyone younger than 16.
Mark Lunsford, of Homosassa Springs, Fla., told The Tampa Tribune it has not been proven that his son has done anything wrong. Even what has been alleged cannot compared with the crimes of the pedophiles he has helped put in prison through his work with the Jessica Marie Lunsford Foundation, he said.
"We're talking about Romeo and Juliet here, not some 36-year-old pervert following around a 10-year-old," Lunsford said.
Attorney Mark Gelman, who was a liaison between the Lunsfords and authorities during the investigation into the death of Jessica Lunsford, said Mark Lunsford was not Joshua's custodial parent.
"I've always heard that Josh is a good kid. I would just tell people not to jump to any conclusions," Gelman said.
A woman who answered the phone at Joshua Lunsford's home Wednesday said he had no comment. A message seeking comment was left for Mark Lunsford.