The trial for the Florida man accused of kidnapping, raping, and murdering 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle in 2013 is about to kick off. Donald James Smith, 61, faces the death penalty if he is found guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and sexual battery. Jury selection is scheduled to begin next week.
In 2013, 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 allegedly lured the girl’s family to a Walmart with a promise of buying them food and clothing. At some point, Smith brought the girl out of her family’s sight. 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.
Perrywinkle’s mother called 911 in a frantic call, telling the dispatcher, “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."
The girl’s autopsy report revealed that she was abused for hours before her death, according to News 4 Jax. Jurors are expected to see photographs of the injuries that she endured during the trial, which is expected to last a little over a week.
Smith’s defense team has not given an explanation for his alleged actions. He has a long criminal history including a 1977 conviction of lewd and lascivious behavior on a child under 16 and a 1993 conviction of the attempted kidnapping of a minor, according to People.
The girl’s mother blames herself, stating, “My girls need clothes so bad. That's why I let him do it.”
When she found out her daughter was dead, she collapsed.
[Photo: Florida Department of Law Enforcement]