• Lawmakers consider overhaul in sex offender release procedures


    ORLANDO, Fla. - State lawmakers are considering overhauling how Florida deals with convicted sex offenders.

    In November, Channel 9's investigative reporter Christopher Heath took a look at the gaps in the process that allowed some sex offenders to go free and then re-offend.

    The state now wants everyone convicted of a sex crime to undergo evaluation prior to their release from prison.

    The evaluation would close a major loophole that one lawmaker said allowed a convicted sex offender to kidnap, rape and kill a young girl last year.

    It took only minutes for convicted sex offender Donald Smith to abduct Cherish Perrywinkle from a north Florida Walmart.

    Her death hours later is now the motivation for the state to strengthen its laws dealing with sex offenders.

    "If nothing happens now there is going to be another little child on the news with an Amber Alert," said Cherish's mother, Rayne Perrywinkle.

    Rayne Perrywinkle was befriended by Smith at the Walmart but had no idea that he had just been released from jail and had admitted to trying to lure children in the past.

    In all, the state is considering three major changes to the law.

    The first would require evaluations of all sex offenders before their release, even if they were only arrested for a misdemeanor, a change that would have alerted authorities to Smith.

    The other two changes would impose longer sentences, up to 50 years for raping a child, and more in-depth reviews of all sex offenders prior to their release.

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