Father of slain girl wants stricter laws against repeat sex offenders

Mark Lunsford feels pain of Cherish Perrywinkle's family

By Ashley Harding - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Mark Lunsford knows what it's like to lose a child to a sex offender. He helped push for stricter monitoring laws after his daughter, Jessica, was kidnapped and killed by a known offender in 2005.

He is outraged to learn that the man accused of killing 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle (pictured below) is another longtime sex offender.

"This guy apparently wasted no time in laughing in the face of law enforcement and legislators," Lunsford said. "I can feel every ounce of pain that her parents are feeling. It tears me up inside to know that another child has been senselessly murdered."

Cherish's body was found in a wooded area Saturday morning. Donald Smith was arrested and charged with murder. He has a long history of crimes against children and had gotten out of jail just three weeks before.

Ann Dugger, of the Justice Coalition, says the current laws are good ones, but she says dangerous offenders like Smith need to stay behind bars.

"If they're off the street, absolutely, they don't need to be around society," Dugger said. "They don't need to be around children. They don't need to be around their prey."

Lunsford said if repeat offenders are released from prison, there should be better ways to track their movements. He said lawmakers should make protecting kids their top priority.

"We've got to come to some kind of solution for these children so they're not victims," Lunsford said. "Parents need to be educated. Law enforcement needs tools. Prosecutors need laws. Legislators, what do you need? Another child to be murdered?"

Jessica Lunsford's killer, John Couey, was sentenced to death for her murder but later died in prison.

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