The trial for the Florida man accused of kidnapping, raping, and murdering 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle in 2013 had its opening statements today, Monday, February 12. Donald James Smith, 61, faces the death penalty if he is found guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and sexual battery.
Perrywinkle’s mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, testified in court today. At times she fought back tears while speaking about the last hours of her daughter’s life in 2013. She said that Smith had been hovering around her and her three children while they shopped at Family Dollar earlier in the day. The mother said that Smith lured them to a Walmart, located ten minutes away, under the false guise of being generous. He claimed he’d buy the girls clothing with a gift card.
Rayne said that Smith told her that his wife would meet them at Walmart. She testified that she believed him.
“He told me I was safe,” she said in court on Monday. “He looked into my face and told me I was safe.”
The mother said she hoped very much that his intentions were genuine and that he just wanted to help.
Later that day, Perrywinkle’s body was found half naked and shoved under a fallen tree in a marshy area near Jacksonville. According to a police report, Smith brought the girl out of her family’s sight while shopping at that Walmart. Surveillance footage from Walmart shows Perrywinkle, wearing the same dress found near her body, walking out of the store with Smith, who was already a registered sex offender.
In court, Rayne’s 911 call to the dispatcher was played. In it, she said she felt like a fool and that she should have made her stay with her. She said, “I hope to God he doesn’t kill her and I hope to God he doesn’t rape her. I don't understand why he would leave right now unless he's going to rape her and kill her. That's the only reason."
When she found out her daughter was dead, she collapsed.
[Photo: Florida Department of Law Enforcement]