'Miami Herald': State Lost Track of 1,800+ Sex Offenders

By: (AP) The state of Florida lost track of at least 1,800 of 30,000 sexual offenders in the month before a 9-year-old Homosassa, Fla., girl was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by a registered sexual offender, who has confessed, The Miami Herald reported Tuesday.

About 800 sexual offenders and predators unaccounted for in January had committed lewd acts against children, and about 130 had been sentenced for raping minors under 16, according to a review by the Herald. Most of the remaining 870 had committed sexual crimes against adults or teenagers 16 and older.

Officials say John Evander Couey, 46, has admitted abducting Jessica Lunsford on Feb. 23 from her bedroom and then raping and killing her. Couey wasn't listed as missing on the database because state officials were unaware he had moved and was staying near the Lunsfords.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement checks the whereabouts of sexual offenders once a year. Couey had last verified his address in July.

A Citrus County judge had issued a warrant for Couey's arrest Dec. 2 because he didn't report to his probation officer, but FDLE wasn't informed that a child sexual offender had absconded.

The database is intended to be a tool to alert residents of potentially dangerous people living in their neighborhoods and to help with criminal investigations.

"It is absolutely a partnership between the state, the community, and local law enforcement agencies," said Mary Coffee, who supervises the department that maintains the registry. "The registry is not something that is going to eliminate all sex offenses."

Jessica's family is now pushing for closer monitoring of sexual predators.

"We can't do anything about Jessie's death now, but in the future we have to figure out a better way of knowing where these guys are," said Archie Lunsford, Jessica's grandfather.

Couey has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail at Citrus County jail.


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