Suspicious Fire Burns Down 9-Year-Old Child's Murder Site

A suspicious fire burned down a mobile home where 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford was raped and buried alive four years ago this month, authorities said Monday.

The child's abduction and murder by John Evander Couey prompted lawmakers in Florida and other states to pass Jessica's Law to keep better track of sex offenders and punish repeat offenders more severely.

A fire late Sunday gutted the vacant trailer where Couey, a repeat sex offender, used to live in a wooded neighborhood of mobile homes about 60 miles north of Tampa.

Firefighters deemed the blaze suspicious.

"There was nothing in it, it was unoccupied and the power wasn't hooked up," said Citrus County Fire Department spokesman Jim Hunter.

State fire marshals were investigating

The sheriff's office had no records of other vandalism at the property since Jessica was snatched from a bedroom of her nearby home on Feb. 24, 2005.

Couey was convicted of murder in March 2007 and sentenced to death.

He told investigators he kept Jessica in a closet for several days before burying her alive outside the trailer, which was within sight of her own home. The sheriff's office, however, contended that she was killed immediately.

Jessica's father had criticized the Citrus County Sheriff's Office for initially focusing on his family and failing to search Couey's trailer.

Deputies made four visits to the trailer but never asked to go inside, according to documents obtained by Mark Lunsford and his attorneys. They claimed that if police had searched the trailer, they have might found Jessica alive.

Sheriff Jeff Dawsy has disputed Lunsford's allegations.