Cherish Perrywinkle: Defense rests after medical examiner broke down while testifying that girl was ‘choked to death’ after brutal rape, beating

WARNING: Graphic language and subject matter

As the second day of trial continued for the Florida man accused of kidnapping, raping, beating, then killing an 8-year-old girl, the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on the child broke down during her testimony.

Jacksonville Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Valerie Rao took the stand on Tuesday morning in a Duvall County courtroom, where she described how she examined the body of Cherish Perrywinkle, a young girl taken from a Walmart in 2013, allegedly by the suspect on trial, Donald Smith, 61. Smith, who faces the death penalty if convicted, is accused of kidnapping the little girl, then beating and raping her before killing her and tossing her in water.

The jury was visibly shaken, with many of them covering their mouths with their hands as Rao described abnormalities found on the suspect’s genitalia caused by “sucking motion with significant force.” Rao also explained that the suspect’s injuries on his genitals were “fresh” during the time the photos were taken and “consistent with the time frame of the death of this child.”

Further, Rao testified that the victim had extreme trauma to both her vaginal and anal area. The medical examiner stated that the trauma was so extreme that area between the victim’s vagina and anus was completely ripped to where only a “thin tissue” remained.

Although Cherish was found in a body of water, Rao testified that she didn’t die from drowning. Instead, Rao said the little girl was choked to death prior to the suspect allegedly dumping her body. Cherish also had blunt force trauma to the back of her head and severe bruising on her chest area from “someone sucking on her breasts,” according to Rao.

Additional injuries on the child included scratches and bruising on her legs and buttocks, and brain swelling due to lack of oxygen from asphyxiation. The suspect allegedly choked the child so severely that the skin around her throat and neck abraded and peeled off. Further, Cherish’s mouth, nose, gum line, and chin were damaged from the impact of the strangulation.

Meanwhile, the defense rested and didn’t bring forth any witnesses. Jurors were excused for the day and asked to return to court tomorrow at 9:15 a.m.

Cherish Perrywinkle: What You Need to Know

As CrimeOnline previously reported, on June 21, 2013, suspect Donald James Smith, then 61, allegedly approached single, struggling mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, at the Dollar General store on Edgewood Avenue West in Jacksonville. The man first offered to buy the mom a dress, then offered to buy her a $100 gift card, to which she agreed, according to court documents. When he found out Perrywinkle didn’t have a car of her own, he somehow convinced her to ride with him to pick up the card at a nearby Walmart.

Smith reportedly drove Perrywinkle, her daughter, 8-year-old Cherish, and her two other little girls to the Walmart off of Lem Turner Road, claiming that his wife would meet them there and help them shop for clothing. The family loaded into Smith’s white van, lined with dark curtains on the inside.

At around 11 p.m., Smith’s wife still hadn’t arrived. It’s still unclear whether she ever existed, as Perrywinkle never once saw her. The suspect then allegedly suggested getting food at the McDonald’s inside the store, and asked Cherish to accompany him and pick out the food she wanted. After 30 minutes passed and her daughter hadn’t returned, Perrywinkle became frantic and called the police after an employee allowed her to use their phone.

“I don’t want him to kill her. I don’t want to be one of those parents who go through this.” Perrywinkle told a 911 operator. “I don’t understand why he would leave right now. I already know he’s going to rape her.”

After a lapse in time while discussing strategies to find the little girl, officers began canvassing the area in search of Cherish. They obtained surveillance footage from Walmart and watched Smith exiting the store with the child following closely behind. They later identified Smith as a convicted sex offender who had only been out of jail for around three weeks before he reportedly preyed upon the Perrywinkle family.

Check back with CrimeOnline as we continue to provide coverage of the trial.

[Feature Photo: Cherish Perrywinkle/Handout]