JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The parents of Jessica Lunsford, the 9-year-old who was abducted and buried alive in a trash bag by a sex offender, claim the sheriff's office botched the investigation when it failed to search the convicted murderer's trailer.
Mark Lunsford, Jessica's father, said Tuesday that he believes his daughter was still alive when sheriff's deputies knocked on the trailer door of John Couey, the convicted sex offender sentenced to death for her murder.
The trailer seemed suspicious but authorities failed to search it at the time, Lunsford said.
"The person who answered the door was visibly shaking," Lunsford said at a press conference with his attorneys.
The Citrus County Sheriff's Office denies the accusations, saying Jessica was killed immediately after Couey kidnapped her from her bedroom in 2005. Jessica's body was found a month later buried in Couey's backyard.
Sheriff Jeff Dawsy called the allegations “absurd” with no fact to back them up.
“Jessica was gone before we hit the ground,” Dawsy told reporters at a press conference.
Lunsford is intending to file a lawsuit against the Citrus County Sheriff's Office over allegations of negligence, also citing the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Citrus County Board of County Commissioners as negligent in the investigation.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages of $100,000 but Lunsford said it's not about the money.
"If it was about money, I would have sued in the beginning and I would have won," Lunsford said.
Lunsford said he doesn't want money out of the lawsuit; he wants the sheriff's department to change its policies and procedures to prevent others from losing loved ones.
"The truth is, Jessie didn't have to die, she could have been saved," Mark Gelman, an attorney representing Mark Lunsford, told FOX News.
Lunsford went on a national campaign to urge states to strengthen sex offender laws in light of his daughter's gruesome killing. Thirty-four states revised laws to shield children from sex offenders.