Donald Smith kidnapped, raped, and murdered 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle. He lured the girl’s family to Walmart and then left with just her. The medical examiner’s report was so graphic, it’s hard to read, let alone hear, and it’s clear this man is absolutely disgusting. But, if you can believe it, it gets worse, leaving one simple question: Does Donald Smith deserve the death penalty for raping and murdering Cherish?
Cherish Perrywinkle of Jacksonville, Florida, went missing from a local Walmart in June 2013, and her case quickly made national headlines. According to Rayne Perrywinkle, the child’s mother, she and her three daughters, including 8-year-old Cherish, were shopping when a stranger changed their lives forever.
Struggling financially, the mother said she thought that Donald Smith, then 56, was the blessing she needed when he approached her and offered to help her out. Little did she know, his “kind” gesture was all a front to get what he really wanted, and it would lead to a mother’s worst nightmare.
After seeing the mother struggle to pay for her children’s outfits at a Dollar General discount store, according to Fox News, Smith successfully lured the family to Walmart, gaining their trust with promises of new clothes and a McDonald’s meal at the store. Unfortunately, Rayne allowed Cherish to go with Smith to get the food after he had helped the mother and her girls shop for the clothes, but her daughter would never return from the McDonald’s restaurant at the front of the store.
When Rayne realized Cherish had vanished along with the stranger, she frantically called 911, but it was too late. Cherish’s body was found the following day in front of a church. Not only had the young, innocent girl been kidnapped and murdered, she was raped as well — the details of which a courtroom had to hear when Donald Smith was captured and brought to trial for kidnapping, sexual battery, and first-degree murder. Be forewarned, the graphic nature of the crime is difficult to even read about.
“I was yelling, ‘Call 911!” Rayne said, speaking of the moment she realized Cherish was missing. “My daughter’s been taken,’ and no one would help me right away,” she added. Little did she know the hell that Cherish was facing during those moments — a hell the medical examiner was able to describe to the court when asked to give her testimony at the trial of then-61-year-old Donald Smith. In great detail, she described the torture Cherish faced in her final moments.
The court grew emotional as the medical examiner recalled the graphic autopsy of the raped and murdered 8-year-old girl, and it’s enough to make your stomach churn. According to Jacksonville Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Valerie Rao’s testimony, Cherish’s genitalia was “totally distorted” due to the viciousness of the rape. In addition, Smith strangled the child to death with an item of clothing as he raped her, all while her right eye bled due to the force of the strangulation.
The medical examiner recalled finding severe injuries all over the child’s body from being strangled with a piece of clothing and raped and added that the girl’s body was “totally distorted” from the trauma as the jurors cried and covered their eyes, according to sources within the courtroom.
She estimated that it took the child, who also had blunt force trauma injuries to the head, 3 to 5 minutes to die, First Coast News reporter Anne Schindler live-tweeted from the trial.
Rao continued her gut-wrenching testimony, adding that the child’s right eye began bleeding while being strangled and also revealed that Cherish had tried to fight back, injuring Smith’s penis.
Upon hearing her testimony, jurors were also left in tears. As if listening to the testimony was not difficult enough, the court viewed photographs of the child’s body, causing even Rao to grow teary-eyed and ask to take a break.
However, not everybody was moved nor did everyone appreciate the compassion displayed by Rao. In fact, Smith’s defense urged the judge to declare a mistrial, arguing that the medical examiner’s emotional reaction could produce bias among the jurors. Luckily, Judge Mallory Cooper denied the motion.
The jury had previously heard secret jail recordings in which State Attorney Melissa Nelson says Smith can be heard bragging about the crime. “She had a lot for a white girl,” he was heard telling another inmate on the tape, allegedly referring to his 8-year-old victim’s buttocks. He was also heard telling his fellow inmate that he targets 12-year-old girls.
Shockingly, this was just one of over a dozen times Smith has been arrested in the past 40 years, and doctors had previously determined that he was a violent sexual predator after arrests in 1999. At least three of Smith’s previous charges led to sex abuse convictions, and he has been on Florida’s registry of sexual offenders. What’s worse, Smith had just been released from prison only three weeks before he kidnapped, murdered, and raped Cherish.
After closing arguments were presented, the case went to the jury for deliberations. If guilty, prosecutors asked the jurors to sentence Smith to death. The jury came through for the prosecution, not only convicting the child rapist and killer but also unanimously recommending that Donald Smith is executed for his crimes against Cherish Perrywinkle.