John Couey confessed to police in 1991 to molesting his stepdaughter; Never prosecuted

Thursday, March 24, 2005 Last night, CNN's Anderson Cooper played a chilling police audio tape of a 1991 confession made by the accused killer of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford. On the tape, John E. Couey is heard admitting to molesting a young girl in her own backyard. For the crime he was subsequently charged, convicted and imprisoned for 2 years.

An accompanying written report by the officer who took the taped confession says; "Couey admitted that this was not the first child he had ever touched, however, this is the first time he was caught." The officer continues, "Couey admitted to molesting his wife's daughter, however, she agreed not to report the incident if he left the house and gave her a divorce, which he did." CNN was unable to locate Couey's former wife.

The revelation calls into question the way Couey has been dealt with by officials over the years. He spoke on the 1991 tape about how he "needs help" and "wants help".

Mary Doyle, a Citrus County probation official, said Monday that if they had known Couey was a registered sex offender, they may have been able to keep him away from Jessica Lunsford. Florida Courts do not provide probation workers with criminal backgrounds of their probationers, even in the case of registered sexual offenders like Couey, Doyle said. With that information they might have tried harder to locate him when he failed to report in with probation officials last November. When detectives did finally catch up with him, they learned he had been living across the road from Jessica.