The man who shot himself when police confronted him in connection with the kidnapping of 4-year-old Missouri girl Alisa Maier was a registered sex offender who had been released from prison for another crime just two weeks ago, a local prosecutor said.
Paul Serling Smith, 38, died from wounds Wednesday night after shooting himself in the head outside a home located about halfway between where the girl was snatched from her front yard Monday night and the St. Louis suburb where she was found late Tuesday wandering around a car wash.
Smith, who was convicted in 1995 of sodomy of a 10-year-old boy and spent 11 years behind bars, recently served 120 days in a Lincoln County burglary case and a judge ordered him released after completing a drug treatment program.
"He should not have been on the street," Lincoln County Prosecutor John Richards told ABCNews.com. "From a prosecutor's perspective he should not have been on the street… This is a violent sexual offender."
Richards said the burglary for which Smith was convicted occurred at a gas station and that he was imprisoned in February. After Smith was released on probation on June 23, he was handed over to authorities in nearby Phelps County, where he did three days on a drug charge.
Smith is listed on the Missouri sex offender registry as a noncompliant offender, meaning he has not informed authorities of his current address.
A Missouri Department of Corrections spokeswoman said the state had no reason to continue holding Smith after he did his time on the recent cases.
"He was released on June 24, 2010 and had multiple visits with his probation officer," DOC spokeswoman Jacqueline Lapine told ABCNews.com. "It was a judge's order that we had to release him after 120 days."
"Either he fell through the cracks or they made a positive decision not to revoke him because it was a property offense," the prosecutor said. "They decided, 'It's not a violent offense and we're not going to send him back to prison."
St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch said at a news conference that police tracked down Smith after he was spotted in surveillance video at a Walmart store, where he purchased clothing for the young girl. Alisa was wearing the clothes when she was abandoned outside a car wash one day after her kidnapping.
Smith also bought cigarettes at the Walmart, which prompted the cashier to enter his date of birth. That information, along with the video, eventually led police to Smith's residence, Fitch said.
"At this point, we don't believe anybody else is involved… He is the one that abducted Alisa," Fitch said. Police were looking at possible links to other cases but Fitch said it was too early in the investigation.
Alisa Meier Was Missing for 26 Hours
The suspect apparently was living with another sex offender, James B. Oellermann, 54, who spent five years in prison for molesting a 7-year-old girl, according to Missouri's sex offender registry.
Oellerman was described at one point as also being a person of interest but Fitch discounted the claim.
"That's another part of the investigation we're still working on," Fitch said. "We're still trying to talk to that individual to find out if there's any information he can share."
Investigators said Smith shot himself with a small-caliber handgun as officers approached outside his home. Authorities would not comment on local press reports that Smith was spray painting his car shortly before the 4:30 p.m. shooting on Wednesday.
"As officers approached the subject near his vehicle, he produced a handgun and shot himself," Sgt. Al Nothum, a spokesman for the Missouri State Highway Patrol told ABCNews.com.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that Smith received a suspended sentence earlier this year for tampering with a motor vehicle and receiving stolen property in Lincoln County. He also served three days in jail two weeks ago after a 2009 guilty plea for marijuana possession and unlawful use of drug paraphernalia, according to court records.
On Wednesday, police spotted a car that matched the description of the crime vehicle outside Smith's home and approached as he stood near the car. They said he pulled out a gun and shot himself.
Alisa Maier, who disappeared for 26 agonizing hours, was found unharmed at a car wash more than 80 miles from her Louisiana, Mo., home.
"She has been released to her family," Fitch said earlier. "From best I could tell, she's in good shape."
Alisa Maier's Hair Was Cut Short
Alisa turned up at a car wash in a St. Louis suburb after a passerby called police to report what appeared to be a little boy wandering outside just before 10 p.m. Tuesday.
It was Alisa, her hair cut short.
"Right now, my heart's racing ... that we found her," her aunt, Carrie Doyle, told "Good Morning America."
"This community really came together, really came together, and I'm so grateful for that," she said.
Witnesses told police they saw what they thought was a little boy wandering around the car wash alone in the middle of the night.
The girl identified Smith as the man who had cut her hair, Fitch said Thursday.
Alisa was taken to a nearby hospital and later to Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis, where was examined for three hours, a hospital spokeswoman said. Alisa and her parents left the hospital about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. Family and neighbors planned a homecoming celebration for Saturday.
"It was a very moving scene," hospital spokeswoman Ashley Wiehle told ABCNews.com. "I was told that the girl was sitting in her mother's lap in the emergency room and her mother had her arms wrapped around Alisa like she was never going to let her go again."
Police and the FBI, meanwhile, turned their attention to finding the abductor. Soon after Alisa was snatched, her 6-year-old brother told police a young white man in a dark-colored car had ordered Alisa to get in.
Witnesses at the Fenton car wash where Alisa was found provided a similar discription. Police were looking for a dark-colored, four-door car, possibly a Ford Escort, seen leaving the area of the car wash. Police said a dark-skinned white man in his 30s was behind the wheel.
The car either had a hole in the muffler or no muffler at all, and it was missing hubcaps on the driver's side.
FBI Joins Hunt for Alisa Maier's Abductor
FBI spokeswoman Rebecca Wu said the responding officer reported that Maier was unharmed, but seemed tired. As the hours since her disappearance passed, investigators had feared the worst.
"The chances are not as good as time goes on when a child is abducted," Wu told ABCNews.com. "You always hope for the best."
After 26 hours, Alisa's parents rushed to the scene two hours south of the town of Louisiana, Mo., where the girl was abducted. There was a tearful reunion with her at a police station before Alisa was taken to the hospital.
She has been able to provide more information about her abductor, but authorities were still unsure where she was or what happened to her since she was kidnapped.
"The family wanted to convey how grateful they were for the community response," Wiehle said. "This was a very happy ending."
The most noticeable thing about the abductor's car was its noisy muffler.
"The car had such a loud muffler that it caught attention of people and that's how they noticed the child," Wu said.
Monday's kidnapping triggered a massive search and an Amber Alert for the car that sped off with the little girl as her mother made a desperate, but futile attempt to catch up.
Alisa's mother "got in her van and took off up the road in the direction that her son pointed but the car got away," neighbor Anita Mcklevis told ABCNews.com.
Alisa Maier Found Alive, Neighbors Frightened by Abduction
The town is near a bridge that crosses the Mississippi River into Illinois and law enforcement officers from both states were involved in the search.
Mcklevis said her son was standing outside a friend's house near the place of the abduction and saw a dark car circling the neighborhood for hours before Alisa went missing.
"He didn't pay too much attention and went inside the house," she said.
"When my son came back out, he said Alisa's brother was saying that a young man who looked to be in his early 20s had grabbed his sister and taken her away," Mcklevis said.
Mcklevis described the town of Louisiana, located 75 miles north of St. Louis, as a quiet, safe place.
"We were up all night just thinking about this," she said. "This is kind of town where you don't have lock your doors. You know everybody. The kids play outside all the time.These kinds of things don't usually happen around here."
Anyone with information can call the Louisiana Police Department at (314) 754-4021 or the Pike County Sheriff's Department at (573) 324 3202.