tampabay.com

Trial sure to conjure horrific memories

By ANDREW SKERRITT
Published February 11, 2007


It has been two years since 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford disappeared from her bedroom in Homosassa.

What happened to that little girl terrified not only her community but an entire nation. It led to changes in the law and greater awareness of sex offenders in our midst.

But up to now, there has been no justice.

That's about to change.

John Couey is heading to trial in Miami. Maybe there, they can find jurors who haven't read the paper or watched cable television news in the past 24 months, who haven't heard about what happened to Jessica and who haven't made up their minds about Couey's guilt.

Prosecutors will have to make their case without the chilling confession that Couey made, one that anybody with a computer can hear for himself. Sloppy detective work took care of that.

Still, it's hard to imagine a victory for the defense. We know too much about this guy. We want him gone.

But even then, the case will haunt.

Couey personifies our worst nightmares - of the drug-addled sex offender lurking under the radar, stalking children, waiting for a moment of vulnerability. It is because of these deviants that parents cannot leave their children unguarded. We all sleep lightly; our imaginations take us to bad places. We double lock our doors.

This is why we are so quick to support laws stopping convicted child molesters from living near our parks and schools, churches, even entire cities. No politician wants to hear, "I told you so." No judge wants to be the one who gave a child molester a second chance to molest again.

It is impossible to be detached and unemotional about this case. The details of Jessica's murder are so painful, and it hurts knowing that they will be replayed again during the trial.

Just the thought of it makes us want to hide.

Andrew Skerritt can be reached at 813 909-4602 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 4602. His e-mail address is askerritt@sptimes.com.