It took the jurors only 14 minutes to find 61-year-old Donald Smith guilty of kidnapping, raping and murdering 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle in 2013. The jury found him guilty on all charges. He now faces the death penalty, according to The Washington Post. Smith showed little emotion when the verdict was read.
It has been an emotional trial. Earlier this week, jurors were shown horrifying autopsy photographs of the Cherish Perrywinkle's body, which caused jurors to cringe and look away in disgust. The images were so shocking they made even the medical examiner cry.
Smith has been convicted of luring Perrywinkle’s to a Walmart 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.
On Monday, State Attorney Melissa Nelson described the horrible manner in which the child was killed.
“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."
That same day, the child’s mother gave heartbreaking testimony. She said she believed that Smith’s intentions were genuine.
“He told me I was safe,” she said in court on Monday. “He looked into my face and told me I was safe.”
Just minutes before the jury found Smith guilty, Prosecutor Mark Caliel said during his closing arguments: “He [Smith] made her [Perrywinkle] feel safe with his lies and deception and then he preyed upon her. That little girl had to endure a nightmare no child should have to endure.
The mother was crying as the verdict was read. Jurors will reconvene next week to determine if Smith will be put to death.
[Photo: Florida Department of Law Enforcement]