Fla. Girl May Have Been Alive When Cops Came

A 9-year-old girl who was abducted from her bed and allegedly slain by a sex offender might have been alive when officers questioned residents at the mobile home where the suspect lived, according to court documents.

John Evander Couey (search), 46, who pleaded not guilty to murder Wednesday, had been staying off and on at the mobile home of his half sister, Dorothy Marie Dixon, about 150 yards from Jessica Lunsford's (search) home.

"Couey's timeline of events after he kidnapped Jessica Lunsford leaves open the possibility she was alive and in the house at the time of the first and possibly the second interview," the document released Thursday said.

Citrus County sheriff's deputies stopped twice at the sister's mobile home while canvassing the girl's neighborhood after she was reported missing Feb. 24. At the first interview, shortly after Jessica was reported missing, the deputies spoke to Couey's niece and her boyfriend.

The second time, deputies spoke with the niece again and Couey's half sister. No suspicions were raised either time, but authorities say the residents did not mention that Couey was staying at the home.

The detectives said Couey later told them he was hiding in the home during the second interview. He denied "that anyone else in the house was aware that he had kidnapped the child or that she was being held in the house," according to court papers.

Sheriff Jeff Dawsy has said that Couey was in a "drug haze" during the abduction, and a time frame on how long she was alive might never be known. The girl was sexually assaulted and buried near the mobile home.

Couey was arrested March 17 in Augusta, Ga.