Jessica Lunsford, Death of a 9-Year-Old
On Friday, February 24, 2005, Mark Lunsford's alarm clock went off at 5:00 A.M., his usual work-day wake-up time. Lunsford, 42, drove a dump truck for a company called the Dirt Boys. He lived in a double-wide trailer on Sonata Avenue in Homosassa, Florida, which he shared with his parents, Ruth and Archie, and his 9-year-old daughter, Jessica.
Before he got out of bed, he reached over to the clock radio and turned off the alarm. He could hear the alarm going off in Jessica's room. She usually got up around the same time he did to get ready for school.
Lunsford went about his normal morning routine. According to the St. Petersburg Times, he'd gotten in late the previous night from a date with his girlfriend. But before he'd gone out for the evening, Jessica had made sure that she'd said good night to him. Jessica's grandmother, Ruth Lunsford, remembers Jessica telling her dad: "In case that you're not here when I get done with my bath, I just want to give you a hug and tell you I love you." Jessica was a very affectionate daughter and would often call her father at work just to tell him that she loved him.
As Mark Lunsford continued to get ready for work, he noticed that Jessica's alarm was still buzzing. She wasn't getting up, he thought, so he went to her room to wake her. A construction paper sign with pink Magic-Marker lettering taped to her door asked visitors to Please Knock before entering. Jessica had made it with her grandmother's help. Lunsford opened the door, expecting to find his daughter fast asleep, clutching the stuffed toy tiger she always slept with, but her bed was empty. The tiger was there, but Jessica wasn't.
He looked around the house for her, calling out her name, but there was no answer. Jessica was gone, and the front door was unlocked.