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Drawing of Jessica Lunsford is returned, so theft charge is dropped

SPRING HILL — At the request of Mark Lunsford, prosecutors Friday dropped a felony grand theft charge against a woman accused of stealing three large drawings from him, including one of his 9-year-old daughter, Jessica, who was kidnapped and killed in 2005.

Jeanette L. Viegas, 37, faced the charge for taking six items including the drawings, which were valued at $300 each, according to court records. The other drawings, given to Lunsford by a local artist, pictured him with Jesus and with former Gov. Jeb Bush at the signing of Florida's landmark Jessica's Law.

Before the March 4 incident, Viegas lived with Lunsford at a home on Elwood Road in Spring Hill, according to arrest reports. Lunsford told authorities they argued after he told her he was moving out. He spent the weekend in a hotel and came home to find the 16- by 20-inch charcoal drawings missing.

She sent him a voice mail sarcastically saying, "Thanks for the pictures, I'm taking them to Polk County," and a text message saying, "Everything of Jessie's belongs to me now," according to police reports.

Viegas admitted taking the drawings because she was angry at him and refused to return them, reports say. Authorities issued a warrant March 11 and arrested her at the Elwood Road home when she came to return the drawings.

In an interview Friday, Lunsford said he asked prosecutors to drop the charge — punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine —because the drawings were returned. He considered them "priceless."

"They got my property back," he said. "That's all I wanted."

His daughter went missing from his parents' Citrus County home in February 2005. Authorities found Jessica's body three weeks later, buried outside the nearby trailer of John Couey, a sex offender who in 2007 was sentenced to death for her murder.

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6114.

Drawing of Jessica Lunsford is returned, so theft charge is dropped 06/05/09 [Last modified: Friday, June 5, 2009 11:06pm]
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