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Local mom feels sense of guilt after learning of Cherish Perrywinkle's murder

Mother of Donald Smith's former victim 062413 (Laureen Ricks)
Stephanie Thornton says she can't help but to feel a sense of guilt for not pushing for a stiffer sentence against Donald Smith. (Laureen Ricks)
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Updated: 6/24/2013 8:55 pm
BAKER COUNTY, Fla. -- According to Stephanie Thornton, had Donald Smith received a harsher sentence in her daughter's case it could have saved Cherish Perrywinkle's life.

"I should've pushed the courts more but it was getting financially where I couldn't drive back and forth to Jacksonville," said Stephanie Thornton, mother of a former victim.

In 2009 the man accused of killing Perrywinkle, Donald Smith, was convicted of impersonating a Department of Children and Families employee to try to lure Thornton's daughter.

Smith called Thornton claiming her daughter had been raped and even arranged a meeting at a McDonald's saying he needed to take her to get checked.

Thornton got suspicious and police eventually arrested Smith. He was recently released from jail on May 31st of this year after serving time for that offense.

Thornton says that sentence was not enough.

"Honestly I felt if he got out that he would come back for my daughter but instead he took another child's life," said Thornton.

Thornton claims she was never notified of his release, she says not knowing could have put her family at risk.

"I never knew that he had gotten out, I wasn't contacted nothing was sent through the mail no calls no nothing," said Thornton.

Action News has learned the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office may be looking into whether or not former victims were notified Smith was back on the streets.

Action News asked to interview the prosecutor from Smith's 2009 conviction, but got this response from a spokesperson with the State Attorney's Office:

"This is an ongoing investigation, and the defendant's past criminal cases may be relevant to the current murder investigation. It would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time"

Thornton says her now 13-year-old daughter, Christina, is taking Perrywinkle's death very hard. She says she too feels a sense of guilt for not testifying in court when she was only 9 years old.


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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Action News Jacksonville

tlynn - 6/24/2013 9:18 PM
2 Votes
Our "justice" system is a joke! There is no justice for victims! This society has become so "politically correct", and so concerned about "doing the right thing" for the perps…If we weren't so busy jailing pot smokers, and minor offenders, then the courts could/may/should, concentrate on keeping the community safe from these violent predators!
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