Man gets 72 years for kidnap, sex assault of two boys

James Harold Smith
James Harold Smith

BAY ST. LOUIS -- A man who kidnapped and sexually assaulted two Pearl River County boys, and tried to kill one of the boys by slashing his throat, has been sentenced to 72 full years in prison.

Judge Chris Schmidt sentenced James Harold Smith, 43, of Pearl River County, as a habitual offender Monday in Hancock County Circuit Court. Smith pleaded guilty to attempted murder and two counts each of kidnapping and sexual battery.

Smith will not be eligible for early release. His felony convictions include attempted manufacture of meth, jail escape, receiving stolen property and violating the state's Racketeering and Organized Crimes Act.

His latest charges were prosecuted in Hancock County because he was living in a camper on Mitchell Road in north Hancock County and took the boys to his residence.

He was arrested in 2013 after two boys, ages 5 and 8, were abducted from Pearl River County. He admitted he took them to his camper on Mitchell Road, where he sexually assaulted them and tried to kill the older child.

Hancock County deputies had received a call for help Dec. 18, 2013. The older child had run about 500 yards to a neighbor's house for help. His throat was slashed from ear to ear, and the child said James Smith had tried to rape him, said District Attorney Joel Smith, no relation to James Smith.

The older child also said his younger brother was still with Smith and was in danger, the DA said.

The first deputy to arrive found James Smith trying to drive off with the younger child in his car. James Smith abandoned the child after a car chase and a foot chase and ran into woods.

Deputies in both counties, Picayune police and state prison investigators began a manhunt and found James Smith as he tried to flee in a different vehicle on Mississippi 43. At the time, he was on probation for RICO Act violations.

The children had been playing outside a home in the Derby community when they went missing, said ADA Chris Daniel, who prosecuted the case.

Prosecutors said the boys, in forensic interviews at Hope Haven, gave details of what happened from the time James Smith took them, including sexual assaults at his camper and the attempt to kill the 8-year-old with a knife.

Prosecutors said the boys' mother provided a statement to James Smith that said, "You have taken a piece of life from both of my boys because of what you put them through, but they are strong."

DA Joel Smith had this to say: "These boys survived a horrific experience perpetrated on them by this defendant. Their courage and the quick response and teamwork of Hancock and Pearl River county law enforcement ensured that he would spend the rest of his life in a prison cell for his actions."

Joel Smith said the Pearl River County District Attorney's Office assisted in the prosecution.