Local mom speaks out about encounter with kidnapping, murder suspect Donald Smith

Published On: Jun 25 2013 08:57:44 PM EDT   Updated On: Jun 26 2013 07:07:45 AM EDT

VIDEO: Donald Smith, the man charged with murdering Cherish Perrywinkle, was recently released from jail after serving time for impersonating a public official in 2009. Stephanie Thornton, the victim's mother, was shocked to see Smith's mug shot on the evening news.


A Baker County mother spoke to Channel 4 Tuesday night about her daughter's dangerous encounter with kidnapping and murder suspect, Donald Smith. 

Stephanie Thornton told Channel 4 that the convicted sex offender called her home and spoke to her then 10-year-old daughter back in June of 2009. Smith called the family and pretended to be an investigator with the Department of Children and Families. 

"He impersonated himself as a DCF worker," said Thornton. "And read me an ID number and convinced me all the way that he was with the Department of Children and Families."

Thornton told Channel 4 that Smith called for her at her mother-in-law's home claiming to be looking into allegations that her daughter, Christina, had been molested by her grandfather. After Smith with done speaking with Thornton, he asked to speak with her 10-year-old daughter. 

"He asked her if she had hair down there and what size bra she wore and she was crying. She didn't say anything back to him, she gave the phone to her grandmother. Donald Smith told her that they had to meet at McDonalds's, to take her to go get checked," said Thornton. 

According to the police report, Smith told police that he remembered making the phone call and told police at the time, he had been on a 3-day crack cocaine binge. Smith couldn't explain to police why Thornton's number was listed under "favorites" in his cell phone. 

Thornton said Smith was offered a plea deal in effort to keep her little girl from having to re-live the trauma by testifying in court. 

He was charged with impersonating a public official, aggravated abuse and making obscene phone calls and threats. Smith served one year in jail for the crimes.  

The decision to make the plea deal is one that Thornton says she now regrets and one that is haunting her now 13-year-old daughter, Christina.

"She feels so guilty, like she should have went to court and stood up in front of this old man and maybe this little girl might still be here today," said Thornton. "She hasn't left the house since Saturday, she's been at my neighbors, right here, but she doesn't want to be out in public. She hasn't been eating well since Saturday. She called me today while I was at work, crying."

As the investigation into Cherish Perrywinkle's death continues, Thornton said she's more determined than ever to make sure Smith never leaves a prison cell again. 

"He needs the electric chair, or how ever they do it, yea he doesn't need to be here no more," said Thornton.  


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