Mark Lunsford, a truck driver who laughingly refers to himself as a redneck, has become one of America's best-known child advocates. A national crusade on behalf of improved sexual predator laws has compelled him to speak across the country, testify before Congress and even meet with federal prosecutors. It has also landed him on national TV and in the pages of news magazines, as well as a book deal and talk of a movie adaptation of his story.
But the work has come at a price, including accusations of mishandled foundation funds that have left him wondering where the line between advocacy and personal enrichment is drawn. Among other things, Cheryl Sanders says Lunsford used a credit card belonging to the Jessica Marie Lunsford Foundation to buy furniture for her home and to reimburse herself for meals at restaurants where he was invited to speak. She also questions expenses billed to the foundation for a motorcycle trailer and a tour bus once owned by Sylvester Stallone that were never listed on IRS forms.
In the 10 years since his daughter's death in Homosassa, Florida, Lunsford has pushed legislation called "Jessie's Law" through legislatures in 46 states and has worked to keep the spotlight on the issue of child abuse. He's also pursued a new career as an advocate for children, and he has a 3-year-old son who he says bears a strong resemblance to Jessica.