Rain slows search for missing girl; $25,000 reward

Monday, February 28, 2005

HOMOSASSA, Fla. -- The search for a 9-year-old girl who vanished from her bedroom resumed Sunday with torrential rains hindering the intensive hunt.

Hundreds of police and volunteers have turned out to search for Jessica Marie Lunsford, who was last seen Wednesday night when her grandmother tucked her into bed. The next morning, her father discovered she was gone.

Authorities have few clues. Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy has said a door at the home was unlocked and one of Jessie's dolls was gone.

Police have scoured the wooded neighborhood around her house, but Dawsy said the girl's disappearance is not a confirmed abduction, and he hasn't ruled out anything.

"We don't have anything specific to work on," Dawsy said. "We have received an awful lot of leads. More than anything, we have taken some of those leads and put them away."

As dawn broke Sunday, rain was falling across the region. Forecasts called for strong thunderstorms to drop as much as 2 inches by nightfall.

"The weather has not been beneficial to my investigation at all," Dawsy said.

The night after Jessie's disappearance was reported, fog grounded a helicopter that would have searched the area with infrared radar.

Atlanta Braves pitcher Mike Hampton, a Homosassa native, and his wife Katia put up a $25,000 reward for Jessie's return.

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