Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jessica Lunsford, Death of a 9-Year-Old

Savannah to Augusta

John Couey
John Couey

Bald with watery blue eyes, John Couey stands five feet four, weighs 125 pounds, and looks older than his age. He's been in trouble with the law for most of his adult life, having been arrested 24 times in a 30-year period.  His arrival in Savannah, Georgia, proved no exception to his pattern. Sometime after he checked into a homeless shelter, Savannah police questioned him regarding a possible marijuana-possession violation, but unaware of Florida's interest in him, the police did not hold him. 

Sensing that it was time to move on, Couey hit the road and found his way to Augusta, Georgia, 100 miles away, where he found lodging at a Salvation Army shelter. By this time the disappearance of Jessica Lunsford had become national news. In some reports Couey was identified as a suspect, his face displayed on television with pleas to the public to come forward if they thought they saw him. A secretary who worked at the Salvation Army shelter happened to see a photo of Couey on TV. She called the police and told them that a recent arrival at the shelter looked an awful lot like the man wanted for questioning in the kidnapping Jessica Lunsford.

Jessica Lunsford, image released by police
Jessica Lunsford, image released by police

Augusta police picked up Couey and held him for failing to register as a sex offender in Georgia. In the meantime Augusta authorities contacted the Citrus County Florida Sheriff's Office.  Citrus County Detectives Scott Grace and Gary Achison arrived in Augusta on March 17 to interview Couey. Distraught and agitated, Couey endured several hours of questioning.  Throughout the interview he maintained that he knew nothing about the disappearance of Jessica Lunsford.


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