CRIME
06/24/2013 12:25 pm ET

Donald James Smith, Charged In Cherish Perrywinkle's Kidnapping, Murder, Has Long Criminal History

AP

The Florida man accused of kidnapping and murdering an 8-year-old has a criminal history of child abuse that goes back decades.

Donald James Smith, 56, allegedly abducted Cherish Perrywinkle from a Jacksonville Walmart Friday night. The girl's body was found the next day in a wooded area in the same city.

In 2009, Smith was convicted of attempting to take another young girl. On Sunday, Stephanie Thornton told Action News JAX about the incident, in which he tried to kidnap her own daughter.

Smith called the girl's grandmother, pretending to be a Department of Children and Families employee. He claimed that the 9-year-old had been raped and that he needed to meet her at McDonald's "to pick her up to take her to be checked," Thornton told the station.

Suspecting he was a fake, Thornton contacted police and Smith was arrested. In 2012, he pleaded guilty to attempted impersonation of a public employee and attempted child abuse. He was released from jail on May 31, just 21 days before he allegedly kidnapped Perrywinkle.

The morning of the day Perrywinkle vanished, Jacksonville deputies conducted a monthly address check at Smith's home, as is required for registered sex offenders, News 13 reported.

Thornton did not know Smith had been released, and is incensed that he had the opportunity to harm another child.

"He needs to be electrocuted. He should never be able to get back out, never," she told Action News JAX.

The 2009 incident was not the first time Smith broke the law. Smith has been a registered sex offender since 1993, when he tried to lure three young girls into his pornography-filled van, Fox 30 WAWS reported. He spent five years in prison on an attempted kidnapping conviction.

Before that, Smith was convicted in 1977 for lewd and lascivious behavior on a child under 16.

Smith is currently being held without bail for Cherish Perrywinkle's abduction and murder. He allegedly befriended Perrywinkle's mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, Friday evening when she had trouble affording a new dress for Cherish at a Dollar General store.

The mother and her three children, including Cherish, went with Smith to the Jacksonville Walmart, where he said he would buy the family food and clothing. After spending a couple of hours at Walmart, Smith disappeared with Cherish. Her mother called police after realizing her daughter was missing.

Smith pleaded not guilty on Sunday. His next court date is July 16.

Remembering Cherish Lily Perrywinkle

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