tampabay.com

Lunsford son held on sex charge

Joshua Lunsford, 18, is accused of fondling a 14-year-old girl.

By ABBIE VANSICKLE
Published May 30, 2007


TAMPA - A sex offender brutally murdered his half sister, a sweet-natured Homosassa girl named Jessie.

His father, a Citrus County truck driver, is lobbying for harsher punishments for sex offenders.

Now, Joshua Lunsford, the 18-year-old son of Mark Lunsford, is accused of twice fondling a 14-year-old Ohio girl.

Lunsford has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor in Springfield, Ohio, a city about 50 miles west of Columbus, court records show.

Lunsford was arrested May 18 on a warrant from the German Township Police Department. A preliminary court hearing is set for June 11. He did not return a call for comment.

Lunsford and the girl knew each other, and a police report lists them as romantically involved.

The girl's mother told police she had told Lunsford several times to stay away from her daughter and threatened to press charges if he didn't.

The Times is withholding the name of the girl and her mother because of the nature of the charges.

Joshua Lunsford grew up in the care of his mother, Tara Lunsford, not his father, said Mark Lunsford's attorney, Mark Gelman of Jacksonville.

Since his daughter's slaying in 2005, Lunsford has established a charitable foundation in her name.

He keeps a busy schedule of events and lobbies lawmakers for tougher laws against sex offenders.

Mark Lunsford has not yet talked with his son and doesn't know the details of what happened, Gelman said.

Gelman urged the public not to jump to conclusions about the case.

"There's only so much that a parent can do to control the activities of their kids, particularly when they're in the custody of someone else," Gelman said. "Certainly that type of activity is not condoned by him, and he fights hard to stop it in society."

News researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 226-3373 or vansickle@sptimes.com.