Cherish Perrywinkle of Jacksonville, Florida, was missing in June 2013 after leaving a local Walmart, and her story immediately grabbed national news. According to the child’s mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, she and her three kids, including 8-year-old Cherish, were out shopping when a stranger altered their lives forever.
When Donald Smith, then 56, contacted her and offered to assist her out, the mother claimed she believed he was the godsend she required. Little did she know, his “generous” act was a ploy to acquire what he truly wanted, and it would result in a mother’s worst fear.
Smith successfully attracted the family to Walmart after observing the mom having difficulty paying for her children’s costumes at a Dollar General discount store, earning their confidence with assurances of new clothes and a McDonald’s supper inside the store. Sadly, Rayne permitted Cherish to accompany Smith to the food stand after he had assisted the mom and her daughters in shopping for clothing, but her daughter never returned from the McDonald’s restaurant at the front of the store.
When Rayne discovered Cherish and the stranger had fled, she dialed 911, but it was too late. Cherish’s body was discovered the next day in front of a church. Not only had the young, innocent girl been abducted and slain, but she had also been raped – information that a courtroom had to hear when Donald Smith was apprehended and charged with abduction, sexual violence, and first-degree murder. Be warned: the gruesome nature of the crime makes it tough to read about.
She screamed, ‘Call 911!’ Rayne described the time she learned Cherish was missing. Her kid has been abducted, she stated, and no one would help her right immediately. Cherish had no idea what she was going through at those times, which the medical examiner was able to convey to the court when she was called to testify during the trial of then-61-year-old Donald Smith. She revealed the anguish Cherish endured in her final moments in excruciating detail.
The medical examiner described the grisly autopsy of the raped and killed 8-year-old child in court, and it’s enough to make your stomach turn. Cherish’s genitalia were “completely deformed” as a result of the rape, according to Jacksonville Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Valerie Rao’s testimony. Smith also strangled the youngster to death with a clothing item and raped her, all while her right eye bled from the force of the strangling.
According to courtroom sources, the medical examiner described seeing terrible injuries all over the child’s body from being strangled with a piece of fabric and raped, and said that the girl’s body was “completely twisted” from the trauma while jurors wept and hid their eyes.
First Coast News reporter Anne Schindler live-tweeted from the trial and calculated that the youngster, who also suffered blunt force damage to the head, died in 3 to 5 minutes.
Rao resumed her heartbreaking evidence, revealing that the kid’s right eye started bleeding while being strangled and that Cherish attempted to fight back, hurting Smith’s penis.
Jurors were moved to tears after hearing her story. As if listening to the evidence wasn’t tough enough, the court then saw images of the child’s body, forcing Rao to cry and ask for a break.
Nevertheless, not all were affected, and not all appreciated Rao’s kindness. In fact, Smith’s defense asked the court to proclaim a mistrial, alleging that the medical examiner’s emotional reaction may taint the jurors. Judge Mallory Cooper, thankfully, refused the motion.
The jury had already listened to hidden jail recordings in which Smith, according to State Attorney Melissa Nelson, can be heard boasting about the crime. On the audio, he is heard telling another inmate, ‘She had a lot for a white girl, apparently referring to his 8-year-old victim’s buttocks.’ He was also overheard telling another convict that he preys on 12-year-old females.
Surprisingly, Smith has been arrested over a dozen times in the last 40 years, and physicians had already decided that he was a dangerous sexual predator following charges in 1999. At least three of Smith’s previous charges resulted in sex abuse convictions, and he has been on Florida’s sexual offenders list. Worse, Smith had just recently been released from jail when he abducted, killed, and raped Cherish.
Following the presentation of closing arguments, the case was delivered to the jury for deliberate. If Smith was found guilty, prosecutors requested the jury to condemn him to death. The jury delivered for the prosecution, not only convicting the child rapist and murderer, but overwhelmingly recommending that Donald Smith be executed for his crimes against Cherish Perrywinkle.