The first witness for the defense during the penalty phase of Donald Smith’s murder trial is Dr. Heather Holmes, a psychologist who called Smith stable and competent. The penalty phase in the Cherish Perrywinkle murder case began on Tuesday morning. On Valentine’s Day, it took 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. Now the jury will have to decide whether he lives or dies.
Holmes recalled that Smith admitted to killing Perrywinkle and that he told her he killed the child simply because she got in his van. Holmes said the killer blamed others for his crimes, including 8-year-old Perrywinkle herself. He specifically said that he raped and killed her, the psychologist testified. She said he had no remorse.
“Was he crying and begging for forgiveness? No. Did I ask him about remorse? No. Did I see anything in the moment that suggested remorse? No. There is nothing I saw that indicated remorse,” Holmes said of the convicted killer.
Holmes said that she has diagnosed him with major depressive disorder, severe cocaine use disorder, pedophilic disorder. Holmes said there is no cure for the pedophilic disorder. She added that Smith was also diagnosed with similar disorders back in the 1970s.
She went on to talk about Smith’s drug use, crack cocaine in particular. Holmes said he was addicted to the drug in 2013.
The psychologist called the killer one of the most dangerous sex offenders she has ever evaluated, adding that doctors over the years described him as uncaring, manipulative and callous. She also said that his mother was an enabler of sorts and that he paid off his drug debts and took care of him financially for years.
Holmes testified that he told her that his thought process after killing the child was: "I thought f----, I’m a convicted sex offender how am I going to explain this?"
Last week’s trial, which led to the guilty verdict, proved to be an emotional one. 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 was 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.
[Photo: Florida Department of Law Enforcement]