In June 2013, 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by Donald Smith in Jacksonville, Florida. Smith had approached Cherish's mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, offering to help her financially. He lured the family to Walmart under the pretense of buying clothes and getting a meal at McDonald's. Rayne allowed Cherish to go with Smith to get food, but she never returned.
Cherish's body was found the next day in front of a church. The details of her rape and murder were revealed during Smith's trial. The medical examiner testified that Cherish's genitalia was severely distorted due to the viciousness of the rape. Smith strangled her to death with an item of clothing while raping her, causing her right eye to bleed from the force of the strangulation. Cherish also had blunt force trauma injuries to her head.
The courtroom was emotionally affected by the graphic testimony and autopsy photos. Jurors cried and covered their eyes as they heard about the extent of Cherish's injuries. The medical examiner estimated that took 3 to 5 minutes for Cherish to die. She had fought back, injuring Smith's penis in the process.
Smith's defense attempted to declare a mistrial, arguing that the medical examiner's emotional reaction could bias the jurors. However, the motion was denied by Judge Mallory Cooper. The jury also listened to secret jail recordings where Smith bragged about the crime and expressed his preference for targeting 12-year-old girls.
This was not Smith's first offense. He had been arrested over a dozen times in the past 40 years, with previous convictions for sexual abuse. He was considered a violent sexual predator by doctors after arrests in 1999. Shockingly, Smith had been released from prison just three weeks before he committed the heinous crimes against Cherish.
After closing arguments, the jury deliberated and found Smith guilty of kidnapping, sexual battery, and first-degree murder. They unanimously recommended the death penalty for his crimes against Cherish Perrywinkle.
The case highlights the horrific nature of the crime committed by Donald Smith and the devastating impact it had on Cherish's family and the community. The jury's recommendation for the death penalty reflects the severity of the offenses and the desire for justice in this tragic case.