Searchers seek signs of missing child

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

HOMOSASSA, Fla. -- A scaled-back search of the area immediately surrounding the home of a missing 9-year-old girl Tuesday turned up no new clues in her disappearance, and was suspended at sunset.

Searchers were expected to resume the hunt for Jessica Marie Lunsford at dawn today. The child has not been seen since her grandmother tucked her into bed last Wednesday night.

Five search-and-rescue teams spent the day scouring the palmetto scrubs, pine thickets and open fields in the residential neighborhood where Jessie lived with her father, Mark Lunsford, and her grandparents.

The hunt focused on a three-quarter-mile radius of the girl's home, about 60 miles north of Tampa. A broader five-day search with hundreds of volunteers failed to find any trace.

"Where it took us five days to go five miles out, now it will take us three days to go three-quarters of a mile out," Citrus County Sheriff's spokeswoman Ronda Hemminger Evan said.

In Tallahasse, Gov. Jeb Bush said Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy told him "there's no leads, no information" that could help find Jessie. "One can hope for a miracle," Bush said.

Law enforcement officials have turned to 20 experts from the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children to help crack the case.

On Wednesday, the Postal Service and the missing children's center planned to distribute more than 46,000 flyers in Citrus County and in parts of nearby Hernando County, sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Tierney said.

Mark Lunsford has made repeated pleas for his daughter's safe return and expressed confidence she would come home. He said he remains convinced his daughter did not leave home voluntarily even though authorities have uncovered no evidence she was abducted. The child's mother, who lives in Ohio, arrived in the state over the weekend.

On the Net:

Jessica Lunsford search:

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: