Donald Smith, 61, is found guilty of rape and murder

  • Donald Smith was found guilty of the rape and murder of Cherish Perrywinkle
  • Jury took just 15 minutes to deliberate before delivering the unanimous verdicts
  • Cherish, who was eight years old, was abducted from a Walmart in 2013
  • Jury will now hear evidence and decide whether to sentence him to death

By Jenny Stanton For Dailymail.com and Associated Press

Published: 11:48 EST, 14 February 2018 | Updated: 12:25 EST, 14 February 2018

A jury took just minutes to find a man guilty of the kidnapping, rape and murder of an eight-year-old Florida girl.

The panel took about 15 minutes Wednesday to deliberate, and delivered its unanimous verdicts against Donald Smith in a Jacksonville courtroom.

Cherish Perrywinkle was abducted from a Walmart in 2013 after Smith befriended her mother.

Donald Smith (pictured Tuesday), 61, was found a man guilty of the kidnapping, rape and murder of eight-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle
Donald Smith (pictured Tuesday), 61, was found a man guilty of the kidnapping, rape and murder of eight-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle

Donald Smith (pictured Tuesday), 61, was found a man guilty of the kidnapping, rape and murder of eight-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle

Chrish Perrywinkle was found brutally raped and murdered in a creek in June 2013
Chrish Perrywinkle was found brutally raped and murdered in a creek in June 2013
Smith abducted her from a Florida mall
Smith abducted her from a Florida mall

Cherish Perrywinkle was found brutally raped and murdered in a creek in June 2013 after Smith abducted her from a Florida mall

Smith lured her family to Walmart in June 2013 with promises to buy a McDonald's meal and new clothing, then left with the girl. Security video showed her skipping out the door behind him. Cherish was never seen alive again.

The 61-year-old Smith faces a possible death sentence.

Smith was captured by surveillance video leaving the store with Cherish, and his DNA was found on the girl's mutilated body.

In his closing argument, prosecutor Mark Caliel said Cherish 'endured a nightmare no child should have to endure.'

The jury will now hear evidence in the trial's penalty phase as it decides whether to sentence him to death.

On Tuesday, Jacksonville Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Valerie Rao, who conducted the autopsy on Cherish became emotional and had to interrupt her testimony.

She told the court that Cherish sustained severe injuries all over her body from being strangled with a piece of clothing and raped.

Viewing photographs of her battered body in court on Tuesday, she became teary and unable to continue.

Jacksonville Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Valerie Rao fought back tears as she described how eight-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle was raped and murdered 
Jacksonville Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Valerie Rao fought back tears as she described how eight-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle was raped and murdered 

Jacksonville Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Valerie Rao fought back tears as she described how eight-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle was raped and murdered 

During 45 minutes of testimony on Tuesday, which left jurors in tears and had them covering their eyes, Dr Rao listed the dozens of injuries Cherish had sustained during her final moments, including bruises and cuts on her knees and thighs.

The medical examiner said the child's female anatomy was 'totally distorted' from the trauma of the rape, as First Coast News reporter Anne Schindler live-tweeted.

She estimated that it took the eight-year-old 3-5 minutes to die. As she was being strangled, her right eye began bleeding.

Rao also revealed that Cherish had attempted to fight back and managed to inflict an injury on Smith's penis after he allegedly attempted to force oral sex on her.

After Rao requested a break and the jury was led out of the courtroom, Smith's defense asked the judge to declare a mistrial, arguing that the medical examiner's emotional reaction on the stand could prejudice the jurors, reported News4Jax. 

Judge Mallory Cooper denied the mistrial motion. 

Items of clothing from Cherish Perrywinkle and Donald Smith collected by Duval County Medical Examiner Dr. Valerie Rao are displayed as they were being entered into evidence
Items of clothing from Cherish Perrywinkle and Donald Smith collected by Duval County Medical Examiner Dr. Valerie Rao are displayed as they were being entered into evidence

Items of clothing from Cherish Perrywinkle and Donald Smith collected by Duval County Medical Examiner Dr. Valerie Rao are displayed as they were being entered into evidence

Also on Tuesday, State Attorney Melissa Nelson played for the jury secret recordings that were done in jail, and on which she said Smith could be heard bragging about his crime. 

'She had a lot for a white girl,' the defendant could be heard telling another inmate on the tape, apparently referring to eight-year-old Cherish's buttocks. 

On Monday, Cherish's mother Rayne Perrywinkle testified through sobs that Smith accused of the crime had convinced her he was a generous Good Samaritan.

She faced him as she told the court about the day her daughter was abducted. 

Rayne said Smith had been hovering around her and her three daughters while they shopped at a Dollar General store earlier in the day on June 21, 2013. She was looking for clothes for all three children and could not afford the purchases. 

Rayne Perrywinkle broke down in tears on the witness stand on Monday while testifying against Donald Smith (left)
Rayne Perrywinkle broke down in tears on the witness stand on Monday while testifying against Donald Smith (left)

Rayne Perrywinkle broke down in tears on the witness stand on Monday while testifying against Donald Smith (left)

Rayne Perrywinkle looks at defendant Donald Smith as she takes the witness stand Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at the Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville
Rayne Perrywinkle looks at defendant Donald Smith as she takes the witness stand Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at the Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville
Donald Smith enters the courtroom on opening day of his murder trial in the death of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle Monday
Donald Smith enters the courtroom on opening day of his murder trial in the death of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle Monday

Face-off: Perrywinkle (left) accused Smith, 61 (right) of pretending to be a Good Samaritan who wished to help out her cash-strapped family

Smith watched as Rayne tried to work out how to pay for the clothes, Rayne testified, and said when she came outside he was waiting. He offered to take them to a nearby Walmart and make purchases with a $150 gift card.

The mother testified that she was wary, but accepted because Smith assured her his wife would meet them at the Walmart.

'He looked into my face and told me I was safe,' Rayne said.

'Did you want to believe him?' prosecutor Mark Caliel asked.

'Very much so,' Rayne replied.

The mother and her daughters piled into Smith's white van. They went to a nearby Walmart and she began shopping with her girls, placing three small piles of clothing in a shopping cart.

Change of plans: After Perrywinkle's emotional testimony, Smith told his defense attorney, Julie Schlax (left) not to cross examine her, as the defense team had planned 
Change of plans: After Perrywinkle's emotional testimony, Smith told his defense attorney, Julie Schlax (left) not to cross examine her, as the defense team had planned 

Change of plans: After Perrywinkle's emotional testimony, Smith told his defense attorney, Julie Schlax (left) not to cross examine her, as the defense team had planned 

Cherish was seen on surveillance video skipping from the mall holding Smith's hand before she was found dead 
Cherish was seen on surveillance video skipping from the mall holding Smith's hand before she was found dead 

Cherish was seen on surveillance video skipping from the mall holding Smith's hand before she was found dead 

Rayne Perrywinkle, right, is consoled at the casket of her daughter at Paxon Revival Center Church on June 27, 2013 in Jacksonville, Florida 
Rayne Perrywinkle, right, is consoled at the casket of her daughter at Paxon Revival Center Church on June 27, 2013 in Jacksonville, Florida 

Rayne Perrywinkle, right, is consoled at the casket of her daughter at Paxon Revival Center Church on June 27, 2013 in Jacksonville, Florida 

It got late, after 10pm, and Smith's wife never appeared. Rayne said her daughters were getting restless because they had not had dinner.

Smith told Rayne he would go to a McDonald's inside the store and get them cheeseburgers. Cherish followed him and was never seen alive again.

Rayne said some 20 minutes later, she realized the McDonald's inside the Walmart was closed and she began to panic. 

Her cellphone didn't work - a daughter had dunked it in water to try and clean it - so she cried out for help realizing her daughter had been taken.

Footage: Security camera footage released by the State Attorney's Office shows Cherish (in orange dress), her sisters and her mother Rayne entering the Walmart store
Footage: Security camera footage released by the State Attorney's Office shows Cherish (in orange dress), her sisters and her mother Rayne entering the Walmart store

Footage: Security camera footage released by the State Attorney's Office shows Cherish (in orange dress), her sisters and her mother Rayne entering the Walmart store

Shopping: Rayne (left, lifting one of her other daughters) was shopping for clothes. She recalls a man (circled) approaching and offering to help pay for clothing
Shopping: Rayne (left, lifting one of her other daughters) was shopping for clothes. She recalls a man (circled) approaching and offering to help pay for clothing

Shopping: Rayne (left, lifting one of her other daughters) was shopping for clothes. She recalls a man (circled) approaching and offering to help pay for clothing

Waiting: Towards the end of the shopping trip, the man offered to buy the family burgers from a McDonald's near the front of the store. Cherish went with him, but footage shows that they never entered the restaurant 
Waiting: Towards the end of the shopping trip, the man offered to buy the family burgers from a McDonald's near the front of the store. Cherish went with him, but footage shows that they never entered the restaurant 

Waiting: Towards the end of the shopping trip, the man offered to buy the family burgers from a McDonald's near the front of the store. Cherish went with him, but footage shows that they never entered the restaurant 

Final frame: After 40 seconds standing outside McDonald's the man leaves the Walmart, with Cherish following him
Final frame: After 40 seconds standing outside McDonald's the man leaves the Walmart, with Cherish following him

Final frame: After 40 seconds standing outside McDonald's the man leaves the Walmart, with Cherish following him

'I was yelling "Call 911! My daughter's been taken," and no one would help me right away,' she said. About 40 minutes after her daughter disappeared, an employee gave her a cellphone and she called 911, prosecutors said.

Rayne could be heard telling the emergency dispatcher: 'He wanted her to buy these really tall shoes that were women’s shoes and I told him no. I said, "They’re too high for her, I wouldn’t even wear shoes that high."

'Maybe he was grooming her. I hope to God he doesn’t kill her and I hope to God he doesn’t rape her.' 

Surveillance footage from the store caught the image of Smith and Cherish exiting, the girl skipping out behind him.

Cherish's brutalized body would later be found in a creek. She'd been raped, smothered and had blunt force trauma to the back of her head
Cherish's brutalized body would later be found in a creek. She'd been raped, smothered and had blunt force trauma to the back of her head

Cherish's brutalized body would later be found in a creek. She'd been raped, smothered and had blunt force trauma to the back of her head

'No one noticed. It looked like a grandfather and a granddaughter,' State Attorney Melissa Nelson told the jury during her opening statement. 'Every mother’s darkest nightmare became Rayne Perrywinkle’s reality. She would never see her daughter Cherish alive again.'

She said Cherish's brutalized body would later be found in a creek. She'd been raped, smothered and had blunt force trauma to the back of her head. She was wearing an orange dress with a fruit pattern on it. When Smith was arrested, Nelson said he was sopping wet from the waist down.

Nelson warned jurors that they will be 'changed' by the end of the trial as she described in horrifying detail the injuries the young girl had suffered at the hands of her attacker, revealing that Cherish was gagged, raped, sodomized and strangled with such force that her eyeballs bled.

'Cherish did not die quickly, and she did not die easily. In fact, hers was a brutal and tortured death,' Nelson told the court. 

Smith's defense attorney, Julie Schlax, suggested to the jury that Rayne made poor decisions getting into the van.

History of violence: Smith (pictured in June 2013) had a long criminal history dating back to the 1970s related to lewd and lascivious conduct
History of violence: Smith (pictured in June 2013) had a long criminal history dating back to the 1970s related to lewd and lascivious conduct

History of violence: Smith (pictured in June 2013) had a long criminal history dating back to the 1970s related to lewd and lascivious conduct

She said she would cross-examine Rayne, but after the mother's testimony Smith told his attorneys not to cross examine her, so they told the court they had changed their mind.

Smith had been released from jail three weeks before Cherish's death, after serving 438 days on felony charges of child abuse and unlawful impersonation of a public employee. 

The man had a long criminal history dating back to the 1970s related to lewd and lascivious conduct. He has been a registered sex offender since a 1993 conviction in Duval County for attempted kidnapping and selling obscene materials. 

Doctors determined that he met the criteria of a violent sexual predator after arrests in 1999, and he had served prison time and been ordered to get treatment, according to the Florida Times-Union newspaper.

In 2009 he posed as a child welfare worker and asked a child sexually explicit questions on the telephone and was arrested on felony charges, which were later reduced to misdemeanors, the newspaper reported.

Cherish was born after her mother, an exotic dancer, and her father, a sailor, had a one-night stand in 2004. Rayne sued the father, Billy Jarreau, for child support three years later, and the two fought for custody of the girl for the rest of her life.

They traded accusations over how the girl got head lice and how she was dressed, as well as money.

Cherish's parents, mother Rayne and father Bill Jarreau (left), were never married, and they had spent years locked in a custody battle over the girl
Cherish's parents, mother Rayne and father Bill Jarreau (left), were never married, and they had spent years locked in a custody battle over the girl

Cherish's parents, mother Rayne and father Bill Jarreau (left), were never married, and they had spent years locked in a custody battle over the girl

In April 2010, a court-appointed evaluator recommended that Cherish live with her father — who, by that time, had moved to California with his new wife. The evaluator wrote that ‘neither parent was perfect’ and acknowledged that it was the hardest case he had ever tackled.

But Rayne had some troubling issues, the report noted, including eviction, a lack of money and some admitted mental health issues that led her to make poor choices.

‘I fear for the child's future living with Ms. Perrywinkle,’ wrote evaluator Robert Wood. ‘I do not make my recommendation lightly. I have given many, many hours of thought to the case.’

Despite that recommendation, a Jacksonville judge ruled Cherish should live with her mother. 

Perrywinkle also lost custody of her other children following the murder. The girls, Destiny and Nevaeh - Heaven spelled backwards - were adopted by an aunt who lives in Australia.

 

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