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After confessing to girl's murder, sex offender held without bail

David Onstott
David OnstottWFLA-TV
/ Source: The Associated Press

A registered sex offender who confessed to murdering a 13-year-old girl was ordered held without bond Monday, and a prosecutor said no decision had been made on whether to seek the death penalty.

David Onstott, 36, was charged with first-degree murder Sunday, a day after investigators discovered Sarah Lunde’s partially clothed remains in a fish pond. She had vanished a week earlier from her home in Ruskin. Authorities said Onstott confessed to killing her after an argument.

“You are talking about a person who would murder a child. Who knows what’s in his mind?” said Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee, adding that Onstott “went to great effort to keep her body from being discovered.” He declined to offer details of the confession.

Onstott didn’t speak during his first court appearance on the murder charge Monday, when he was ordered held without bond. Prosecutor Mark Ober said there was no decision yet on the death penalty.

Onstott, who spent 5½ years in prison after being convicted in 1995 of raping an adult acquaintance, has been held without bail since Tuesday on unrelated charges. His attorney, Pat Courtney, declined to comment Sunday.

Church members mourn
Sarah’s relatives and members of the First Apostolic Church showed up in droves Sunday to mourn the teenager’s death. Her young friends dropped to their knees and wept.

Missing Child Alert Issued For Thirteen-Year-Old
UNDATED: In this photo released by the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Dept., thirteen-year-old Sarah Michelle Lunde is seen. It has been reported that a Missing Child Alert has been issued for Lunde, who has been missing since April 9, 2005 from Ruskin, Florida. (Photo by Hillsborough County Sheriffs Dept. via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Sarah Michelle LundeGetty Images North America

Sarah started coming to the church three years ago on her own, often calling two or three families to arrange for a ride, and they would all show up to get her, church leaders said.

“Every Sunday, we talked about who was going to pick up Sarah,” Sherry Cook said. “I can’t believe we’re not picking her up this morning.”

Though Sarah’s mother was too shaken to talk, her brother Larry May said: “It’s devastating. It’s just unbelievable.

“Everybody has things they wished they’d done — spending more time with their children or keeping in closer contact,” May said.

Sarah was last seen April 9, after returning home from a church trip. Early the next morning, Onstott paid an unexpected visit to the family’s home to look for Sarah’s mother, Kelly May Lunde, whom he once dated, Gee said.

Authorities said that Sarah let Onstott into the house, they got into an argument and Onstott put her in a choke hold, killing her.

Sarah’s 17-year-old brother came home later and found the front door wide open and his sister gone. The family initially assumed Sarah had gone to a friend’s house. She was not reported missing until April 11.

On any other Sunday, Sarah would have spent the afternoon walking with church members to nearby homes to hand out Bibles, according to those who knew her. The church had become a refuge from troubles in her life, including times when she had run away from home.

“People asked me why did she come here, why did she spend her time here,” said Matt Fontana, youth minister at the church. “Because she found love here ... Now she’s in heaven.”

Earlier victims' fathers join mourners
The small church normally draws only about 50 congregants for morning services, but its pews were filled with more than double that number on Sunday. Among the mourners were Mark Lunsford, whose daughter Jessica was found dead last month after she was kidnapped from their Citrus County home, and Roy Brown, whose daughter Amanda was murdered in 1997 by a convicted child molester in Tampa.

Both men lent their support to the Lunde family this past week. Lunsford had helped search for Sarah, saying some of her family had helped search for his daughter in February.

“It’s sad that it takes something like this to bring a community together,” Lunsford said. “America needs to wake up. The next child could be yours.”