The autopsy photographs of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle were so shocking that they made even the medical examiner cry. Jacksonville Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Valerie Rao got so emotional on Tuesday, she asked to take a break during her testimony. It marks just the second day of Donald Smith’s murder trial. Smith, 61, is accused of kidnapping, raping and killing Perrywinkle and he faces the death penalty if he is found guilty, reports The Washington Post. He has pleaded not guilty.
Rao wasn’t the only one who cried where the graphic photos were shown. According to CBS News, several jurors also cried. Some covered their mouths. Others had to turn away.
The medical examiner testified that Perrywinkle’s severe injuries stemmed from her brutal rape and strangulation.
It has already been an intense, emotional trial.
On Monday, the victim’s mother Rayne Perrywinkle took the stand and fought back tears as she testified about the day Smith allegedly abducted her daughter. She looked especially distraught when her 911 call was played for the court. In the call, the panicked mom said she felt like a fool.
“I hope to God he doesn’t kill her and I hope to God he doesn’t rape her," she said in the 2013 call to police. "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."
That day, the mother said that Smith had been hovering around her and her three children while they shopped at Family Dollar earlier in the day. She 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. 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.
On Monday, State Attorney Melissa Nelson said that the child’s last hours on earth were horrendous.
“He gagged her, raped her, he sodomized her, then he strangled her. He gagged her with such force, her gums and nostrils bled. He strangled her with such force her eyeballs bled,” Nelson said. “Cherish did not die quickly, and she did not die easily. In fact, hers was a brutal and tortured death."
[Photo: Florida Department of Law Enforcement]