Jacksonville, FL — “He looked at me like he was going to kill me.”
The first and only witness called by prosecutors during the penalty phase of the trial of Donald Smith was 37-year-old Kerri Anne Buck. In 1992, when Buck was 13-years-old, Smith attempted to kidnap her while she was walking to a friend's house.
FULL COVERAGE: The trial of Donald Smith
Buck was emotional as the stand as Assistant State Attorney Mark Caliel walked her through what happened that day. She says she was heading to a friend’s house when a van with tinted windows pulled up and the driver started asking her questions. Buck identified that driver as Smith, and says she lied to him when he asked about her school.
“He was a stranger,” she says.
She turned Smith down when he offered her a ride, but he demanded she comply.
“He told me to get the f*** in the van,” Buck said.
“How would you describe his voice,” Caliel asked.
“Mean, scary,” Buck said.
Buck says she made it to her friend’s home, but nobody was there, so she kept running to a playground behind a nearby school. She says she pinned herself in a tube slide to try to hide from Smith, but then she heard him approach.
“I was scared. I was slipping, and I was so afraid I was going to fall out, and he was going to find me,” Buck said.
She says she heard him say “I’m gunna find you”, and even after she heard his van drive off, she stayed in the slide for what “seemed like forever”. She eventually fled to a family friend’s house nearby, where she called her family and police.
The terror continued in the weeks that followed, when Buck says she saw Smith’s van outside of her home. She and her mother got in their car and followed Smith, in order to get his license plate. During that, she says she and Smith made eye contact.
“He looked at me like he was going to kill me,” she said.
JSO later showed Buck a photo array, and she positively identified Smith as the person responsible for her attempted kidnapping. He was convicted in January 1993 in Duval County for the attempted kidnapping and served several years in prison.
Smith was convicted last week for the 2013 kidnapping, rape, and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle. He could face the death penalty for the murder charge. The same jury who convicted him is now hearing arguments from the prosecution and defense as part of the penalty phase, and they must be unanimous if they determine to impose the death penalty.
Buck was the only witness called by prosecutors during this penalty phase. In her opening statement, State Attorney Melissa Nelson said they would not introduce evidence beyond what they had shown during the trial. Nelson said in her opening that she believes the evidence already supports most of the aggravating factors they're putting forward in this case.
The defense is now calling their own witnesses, in an effort to show Smith suffers from mental illness, including impulse control. WOKV and Action News Jax will have full coverage of the proceedings as they take place.