Chilling Photos Of Lunsford's Body, Key Forensic Evidence Revealed In Fla. Slaying Trial

Friday, March 2nd 2007, 8:00 pm
By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) _ Prosecutors on Friday showed jurors photographs of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford's body after it was unearthed and a blood-stained mattress as the trial of the convicted sex offender accused of killing her began.

John Evander Couey, 48, is accused of sneaking into the Lunsford home the night of Feb. 23, 2005, and abducting Jessica, then raping her and killing her by burying her alive in garbage bags.

Authorities found her body after Couey told them where to look near her home in Homosassa, about 57 miles north of Tampa. She had been missing for about a month.

Prosecutors displayed the photographs of her body after it was removed from two knotted black plastic bags. Then, they displayed Couey's yellow, floral-print mattress they say is stained with Jessica's blood.

Two female jurors dabbed at their eyes with tissues. Circuit Judge Richard Howard, citing precedent in other high-profile cases, ordered that news organizations could not disseminate the images.

``You can't photograph these pictures. That's the bottom line,'' Howard said.

The case was moved to Miami because of intense pretrial news coverage. It took more than two weeks to seat a jury in Miami, where many people said they remembered the girl's disappearance and news about the ensuing search.

The focus of Friday's testimony was the painstaking identification and authentication by forensic experts of physical evidence recovered from Couey's room, including fingerprints, and the hole where Jessica was found.

Jurors were shown the plastic bags, which a detective testified included two small holes where Jessica poked through with her fingers, as well as the speaker wire Couey allegedly used to bind her wrists.

A wall from the small closet in Couey's room that was dismantled and tested for fingerprints was brought into court and another detective testified that he found fingerprints and a palm print that matched Jessica's.

Couey has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, sexual battery on a child, kidnapping and burglary. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

The trial recessed until Monday.