Documents: Smith didn't meet criteria to be deemed sexual predator

Man accused of sexually assaulting, killing 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle

By Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - "Beyond outraged" is how Cherish Perrywinkle's mother says she feels after learning the man who police said killed her daughter did not meet the criteria of a sexual predator years ago. She said it could have saved her daughter's life.

Donald Smith is accused of abducting, sexually assaulting and killing the 8-year-old girl.

In 2006, at least one correctional psychiatrist tried to get Smith deemed a sexual violent predator, but other professionals overruled the decision, saying Smith did not qualify.

The red flags in documents released by the Department of Children and Families about Smith jump off the page, according to former prosecutor Richard Alexander.

DOCUMENT: DCF report on Donald Smith treatment

"This guy is trouble, and I'm sure people saw that in his record," he said.

Between 1977 and 1998, Smith was arrested four times for sexually assaulting children. According to the DCF documents, at least one prison psychiatrist wanted Smith deemed a violent sexual predator in 2006.

"The system was starting to work," Alexander said. "Someone earmarked him as a sexual predator and sent it up for evaluation. From what I read in the paperwork, he refused to cooperate."

A team of mental health experts, however, didn't agree, saying Smith did not meet the sexual predator criteria based on their evaluation.

When Smith was asked if he still has sexual fantasies, his reply was "no comment." While in prison, Smith broke the rules and was cited nearly a dozen times for possessing drugs and disobeying orders.

"What I see here is an increase in his defiance over time," Alexander said. "In '83, he had one violation, and as he gets closer to release, he then appears to be abusing alcohol and gets 180 days tacked onto his sentence."

When asked if he needed treatment, Smith responded that "this program wouldn't be able to touch the treatment modalities I've been through."

No one knew that seven years later Smith would be accused of killing Cherish Perrywinkle.

Alexander said it's tough to point the finger at just one failure.

"The problem I see here is that there is no one guy who blew it here. It's a systemic problem," he said.

DCF's Sexually Violent Predator Program recommended Smith for commitment in 1999. Commitment recommendation decisions are made by a team of independent and state psychologists who weigh dozens of psychological and behavioral factors before making recommendations to state attorneys. Those recommendations are then evaluated by the state attorney, who then makes a determination about whether or not to purse commitment in court.

In 1999, the SVPP recommended commitment for Smith, but it was not pursued by the state attorney.

Two weeks ago, Rayne Perrywinkle's other two daughters were removed from her home. Since then, family members say they've been cooperating with DCF and that she is undergoing family counseling ahead of a future custody hearing. A DCF spokesman would not comment on what programs the family must successfully complete before regaining full custody of their two other girls.

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