On Monday, State Attorney Melissa Nelson described the horrible manner in which 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle was killed in 2013. This week kicked off the trial for the Florida man accused of kidnapping, raping and murdering Perrywinkle. Donald James Smith, 61, faces the death penalty if he is found guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual battery, reported The Washington Post. He has pleaded not guilty.
Nelson said that the child’s last five hours alive were torturous.
“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."
Rayne Perrywinkle, the victim's mother, also 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 Smith noticed her struggling to pay for their items and that he lured them to a nearby Walmart under the false guise of being generous. He claimed he’d buy the girls clothing with a gift card.
Rayne said Smith told her that his wife would meet them at Walmart. She testified that he 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.
The next morning, 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, a registered sex offender.
In court, Rayne’s 911 call to the dispatcher was played. In it, she said she felt like a fool.
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]