JACKSONVILLE, Fla.- First Coast News is learning more about what one woman says the accused murderer of Cherish Perrywinkle was like when he tried to lure her own daughter.
"Honestly, we're both torn apart from this," Sephanie Thornton said.
In 2009, Thornton and her now 13-year-old daughter dealt with Donald James Smith. He is the man accused of Perrywinkle's murder. She said she's upset
"Knowing that this man got out this easy," Thornton said.
She said Smith called when her daughter was nine and was impersonating a Department of Children and Families employee.
"Read me an ID number, everything. He really had me convinced who he was," she said.
Thornton said Smith asked her child vulgar questions.
"All he asked my daughter was if she had hair "down there,'" she explained. "And what size bra. She started crying when he asked her those."
Even convincing a family member, Thornton said, to meet Smith at a McDonald's.
"I think if I would not have got there, as quick as I did," Thornton explained. "Yes he would've got my daughter."
In early 2012, According to the State Attorney's Office, Smith appeared in court and pleaded guilty to attempted impersonation of a public employee and attempted child abuse-mental harm. The office said the victims were in agreement with the plea. Thornton's daughter did not take the stand.
"We tried very hard to get her to go in there," Thornton said. "She did not want to be in the same room with that man."
Smith was sentenced to two years. That is the max per the plea agreement.
Thornton told FCN she wishes she did something differently.
"Maybe pushed things a little harder," she said.
State Attorney's office spokesperson, Jackelyn Barnard, released a statement saying:
"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."