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.
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."