Florida jurors deciding the sentence of the man who kidnapped, raped and murdered 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle heard from one of his first known victims on Tuesday.
According to the Florida Times-Union, Kerri-Anne Buck, 37, tearfully recalled from the witness stand her 1992 encounter with Smith, 61.
Smith, then 36, drove up to Buck, then 13, in his van while she walked to a friend’s house, the paper reports.
“Do you know Suzie?,” Buck said Smith called out to her. She told him she didn’t.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
Buck said Smith ordered her into his van: He said, “Get the f— in the van,” according to WTLV, but instead, she ran, making a beeline for her friend’s house. She arrived to find no one was home, and continued running towards a school playground.
On Tuesday, Buck recounted hiding in the tube of a playground slide, praying for her life. WTLV reports that Smith kept searching for her.
“I was scared … I was slipping,” Buck told the court. “I was so afraid I was going to fall out and he was going to find me.”
News4Jax reports Smith called out to her: “I know you are in there you little b—-. I’m going to find you.”
Buck said after that initial encounter, she ran into Smith once again, just days later.
“He looked at me like he was going to kill me,” she said, according to News4Jax. “I will never forget his face. I knew he was going to hurt me.”
Her family was able to make out Smith’s license plate, and he ended up serving six years in prison for attempted kidnapping.
Smith Kidnapped Cherish From Walmart
Last week, jurors deliberated for only 15 minutes before convicting Smith. Smith will be sentenced Thursday and faces either the death penalty or life in prison.
Rayne Perrywinkle, Cherish’s mother, testified in court, recalling how she was approached by Smith while she was shopping with her two daughters at a Family Dollar discount store.
Smith, she said, offered to help them buy clothes at a nearby Walmart. When she initially hesitated, she says Smith told her that his wife had a $100 gift card and would meet them at the store. Rayne Perrywinkle told police that she told him, “I don’t usually go with strangers, but if your wife is coming, then it’s OK.”
In court, Perrywinkle said that Smith reassured her she and her daughters were not in danger. The girls soon started to get hungry, so Smith offered to get them food at the McDonald’s inside Walmart. Video surveillance later showed Smith and Cherish walking out of the Walmart.
The next morning, Cherish’s half-naked body — still wearing the same orange dress she wore to Walmart — was found under a fallen tree in a grassy marsh area several miles away.
• For more compelling true crime coverage, follow our Crime magazine on Flipboard.
According to records obtained by PEOPLE, Smith has a long criminal history. In 1977, he was convicted of lewd and lascivious behavior on a child under 16. In 1993, he was sentenced to five years in prison for the attempted kidnapping of a minor. He is registered as a sex offender.
Last year, he pleaded guilty to attempted impersonation of a public employee and attempted child abuse by mental harm. He spent a year in jail and was released just three weeks before Cherish was found dead.