Picayune man sentenced to 72 years for kidnapping and sexual assault of juveniles

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, January 13, 2016

GUILTY PLEA: James Harold Smith pled guilty Monday to two counts of kidnapping and sexual battery of a child under 14 and one count of attempted murder. He was sentenced to 72-years, which will be served day for day. Photo submitted

GUILTY PLEA: James Harold Smith pled guilty Monday to two counts of kidnapping and sexual battery of a child under 14 and one count of attempted murder. He was sentenced to 72-years, which will be served day for day.
Photo submitted


Monday, 43-year-old James Harold Smith of Picayune pleaded guilty to two counts of kidnapping, two counts of sexual battery of two juveniles and one count of attempted murder, Second Circuit Court District Attorney Joel Smith announced Tuesday.

Smith was sentenced by Judge Chris Schmidt at the Harrison County Courthouse to 36 years per victim to run consecutive for a total of 72 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, a release from the District Attorney states. 

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“He took responsibility and wanted to avoid a trial,” Second Circuit Court Assistant District Attorney Chris Daniel said. “He apologized and said he was “sorry for the crime I’ve done and wish I could change it.”’ 

The harrowing events began on Dec. 18, 2013 with a 911 call to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department concerning an 8-year-old boy who was discovered near Highway 43 in the northern part of Hancock County with a severe cut to his throat. Once deputies arrived, they discovered that, after the child was cut, he ran from the scene to a nearby residence where he reported that the defendant tried to rape him, the release states. When the boy resisted, the defendant cut his throat. He was later airlifted to USA Hospital in Mobile, Alabama and treated for his injuries, the release states. 

The boy also reported to deputies that his 5-year-old brother was still with the defendant, the release states. When Hancock County deputies arrived, James Smith fled with the child in the car. After a vehicle and foot chase, the defendant abandoned the child and fled on foot, the release states. 

According to the release, after Hancock deputies rescued the child, they contacted Pearl River County law enforcement to assist in locating the defendant. 

At that time, Hancock law enforcement learned that Pearl River County law enforcement was looking for the boys, who had been reported kidnapped while they played outside a residence in the Derby community, the release states. Both Pearl River County and Hancock County Sheriff’s Departments, along with the Picayune Police department and Mississippi Department of Corrections, located and took custody of the defendant as he tried to flee in another vehicle on Highway 43, the release states. 

During forensic interviews with Hope Haven, the victims said the defendant picked them up from their house in Derby, took them to his trailer on Mitchell Road, where he sexually assaulted them and attempted to kill the 8-year-old with a knife, the release states. 

During Monday’s sentencing hearing, the victims’ mother told the defendant, “You have taken a piece of life from both of my boys because of what you put them through, but they are strong,” according to the release. 

“We are glad that justice was served and it’s now possible that these boys can begin to close this chapter in their lives,” Daniel said. 

Hal Kittrell, 15th District Court District Attorney, which includes Pearl River County, said now, these boys can be assured this perpetrator won’t be in their lives. Kittrell’s office also worked in coordination with Joel Smith and Daniel during the course of this case.

“We are pleased with the outcome of this sentencing,” Kittrell said. “Because the kidnapping occurred in Pearl River County, we were going to pursue our own charges, because these are Pearl River County children and we want to protect our children. However, this is the best outcome and we will not be pursuing the charges. We do not want to subject the victims to more testimony. I want to commend Joel and his office. This is a great sentence and we are pleased.”

In the release, Joel Smith praised the courage, quick response and teamwork of both Hancock and Pearl River County law enforcement. 

“These boys survived a horrific experience perpetrated on them by this defendant,” Joel Smith said in the release. The actions of law enforcement ensured that he would spend the rest of his life in a prison cell for his actions. Our office prosecuted this case in close coordination with the Pearl River County DA’s office and we appreciate their assistance through every phase of the case.”

During his sentencing, Judge Schmidt told James Smith his sentence will be served day for day in prison without possibility of early release or parole, the release states. 

According to the release, Smith’s four prior felony convictions include attempted manufacture of methamphetamine, jail escape, receiving stolen property and violations of the RICO Act.