On Monday, the trial started in the case a Cherish Perrywinkle, an 8-year-old Florida girl found brutally beaten, raped, and killed in 2013. The child’s mother was the first to testify during the trial, as she relived the tragic day when her daughter disappeared.
Perrywinkle threw her head in hands and cried as she heard her own 911 audio call, made from inside a Jacksonville Walmart. The call, which lasted over 10 minutes, revealed the mother’s desperate pleas for her little girl as a 911 operator tried to keep her calm while waiting on officers to arrive. The officers would later come under fire for reportedly mishandling the case. John Rutherford, former sheriff of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, said that the 911 dispatcher’s description of the call ultimately slowed down the process in finding her, as the dispatcher didn’t inform them that Cherish was abducted.
Perrywinkle: Hi, I’m at Walmart on Lem Turner at [edited]. [Edited]’s been taken.
911: What do you mean?
Perrywinkle: Taken by a stranger. I can’t find her.
911: Okay ma’am, how old is (the child)?
911: And you say you’re at the Walmart on Lem Turner?
Perrywinkle Yes, I am.
911: Okay. Where did you last see her at?
Perrywinkle: I met a man today at Dollar General. He saw that I was struggling to buy them some clothes. He brought us here to buy us some clothes and the only reason I went with him because he said his wife was gonna be here. Because I told him I don’t take rides with strangers.
911: And is she a white female, black female?
Perrywinkle: Excuse me?
911: Is she a white or black female?
Perrywinkle: She’s [edited]
911: What color is she?
Perrywinkle: [edited] I don’t remember what clothes she’s wearing because I’m panicking right now. I’m trying not to panic.
911: Okay and she was last seen with this man?
Perrywinkle: Yes, he went – he said he was going to McDonald’s and he hasn’t been there… because the store is closed right now.
911: Okay, is he a white man or a black man?
RAYNE: A white man. He’s got white, short hair and he’s got dark eyebrows.
911: You said dark, short hair?
Perrywinkle: No, he’s got white hair and dark eyebrows. I had a strange feeling about him when I first met him and he took her to the – he took her to the – to the dressing rooms twice. And I was hoping that she would be okay. And I was looking at the shoes. And I didn’t want him to think I was overly protective, freaking out, but now… they’re not here and I find it very odd because he knew that [redacted]
911: Oh, okay ma’am, what color vehicle does he drive?
Perrywinkle: It’s a white van.
911: Do you remember any stickers or anything on the side of the van or anything that you can remember at all? Did it have tinted windows or anything?
RAYNE: I know he’s got carpet in the van. And he’s (unintelligible)
911: And you said what?
Perrywinkle: I didn’t take a good look at the van.
911: Okay, did you remember on it – did you see any tag on it or anything? Was it a Florida tag?
Perrywinkle: No, I didn’t look at that. I feel like a fool.
911: OK ma’am, can you remember what he had on?
Perrywinkle: No, I don’t remember anything because I’m panicking right now.
911: OK ma’am, what’s your name?
Perrywinkle: My name’s [edited]. He said his name is Don. He said he was supposed to meet his wife and his wife never showed up and I couldn’t figure out why she didn’t even show up at Dollar General.
911: And he told you ya’ll were gonna meet his wife at, um, the Walmart?
Perrywinkle: At first she was supposed to show up at Dollar General, and then he was gonna meet with her at – at Walmart and we been here probably two hours. And she didn’t show up and I had this cart full of clothes that he said he was gonna pay for with a $100 gift card and I – excuse me – I – I had a bad feeling. I thought, well, I feel like pinching myself cause this is too good to be true, so I got to the checkout and he’s not here and I’m hoping he’s not raping her right now, cause I’ve had that done to me. It’s not, it’s not (unintelligible). She’s supposed to go to California in the morning on a plane. And he knows cause I told him this; he knew when the store was closing. I had a bad feeling about him.
911: Okay, how long have you been looking for her – when was the last time you saw [redacted], how long ago?
Perrywinkle: About half an hour ago. About 10:30 p.m.
911: You’ve been looking for her for half an hour?
Perrywinkle: Yes. There’s nobody in the store. And he knew the store was closing. He said he was going to McDonald’s, she went with him, I should have told her to stay with me.
911: He was going to the McDonald’s inside the store?
Perrywinkle: Yes. He wasn’t here. Somebody said they saw him, but he’s not here. He should of had the – the nerve to stand here and wait. He must know that I’m panicking right now.
911: OK ma’am, where are you in the store now, are you outside? Or where?
Perrywinkle: I’m in the front of the store. I think I need to hang up because I –
911: No ma’am, are you a white female, black female? What clothes do you have on?
Perrywinkle: I’m 5’8.
911: What color shirt do you have on?
Perrywinkle: A have on a short black polka dot dress and brown flip flop sandals. I have long red hair.
911: Are you right in the front of the store?
Perrywinkle: Excuse me?
911: Who are you talking to?
Perrywinkle The Walmart employee they’re….they’re talking to my girls because they haven’t had anything to eat.
911: What did you say ma’am?
Perrywinkle: They haven’t had anything to eat so the Walmart employee was talking to my girls.
911: Talking to your who?
Perrywinkle: My girls.
911: OK, you have more kids with you?
Perrywinkle: Yes, I have two – my other one, I think he – I think he took her.
911: Okay ma’am you have [edited]. You think she’s been taken. You say you have other kids with you?
Perrywinkle: Yes, I do. He was – uh – he was giving [edited] too much attention. He wanted her to buy these really tall shoes that were women’s shoes and I told him no – they were too high for her, I wouldn’t even wear shoes that high. He was grooming her. I hope to God he doesn’t kill her. I hope to God he doesn’t rape her.
911: OK and when did you meet him today?
Perrywinkle: I met him at Dollar General on Edgewood, I was struggling with my money to buy the girls some clothes and he saw that I – what I was doing and he waited for us outside the store. And he said that he was waiting on his wife to show up. And so I waited around to meet her. And she didn’t show up and then he said he was gonna give us a ride over here to Walmart and then we waited in the parking lot for maybe 20 minutes for her to show up….. she didn’t show up. So we all went into the store, we been here about 2 hours. And she didn’t show up. And I don’t understand why he would leave right now unless he was gonna rape her and kill her….. that’s the only reason. And I’m wasting my time standing here.
911: You’re not wasting your time ma’am – we have officers on the way to you.
Perrywinkle: I can’t remember what [edited] was wearing. I need to sit down and be calm and close my eyes and try to remember what [redacted] was wearing.
911: OK ma’am just stay in front of the store and just try to think about what she’s wearing and what he’s wearing so when the officers get there you can tell them.
911: OK, can you think about anything else about the van or anything?
Perrywinkle: It had a line around the van as it were maybe a metal – a metal – not a sticker but maybe, I don’t know how to explain.
911: Like a pinstripe?
Perrywinkle: I don’t know.
911: Do you remember what color it was?
Perrywinkle: I think it was dark maybe like a silver. And it had a big space in the middle of the van where he had taken out – taken out a couple of seats and he – or I put the stroller in there. I don’t want him to kill her. I don’t want to be one of those parents that are going through this. I just, I fell responsible because I… I told him when I first met him that uh – was a little bit scared of him because I thought he was waiting to rob us outside the Dollar General because he was just standing there. And he said, well, if you really want that dress for [edited] I’m gonna get it for her. I should of told him. But my…my girls need clothes so bad that I … I let him do it. I’m so sorry; now these ladies have to put all these clothes back in the store.
911: Can you remember anything else about him, whenever you were talking to him? Did he sound funny, like he had a acc – accent or anything? Or –
Perrywinkle: He said he works for (unintelligible).
911: He said he works for (unintelligible)?
911: Did he say where they lived?
Perrywinkle: No, I don’t remember that. He said his wife is from the Virgin Islands. We had a little chat in the van on the way over.
911: And did he say he lived on that side of town or anything?
RAYNE: He said he didn’t know this part of town – he wasn’t sure about this part of town. (rapid breathing) Oh Gosh, he knows the store is closed. He knows McDonald’s is closed. Why in the world would he take [edited]?
911: You don’t see the van in the parking lot or anything, where ya’ll left it?
911: Have you been outside to the parking lot?
RAYNE: I went outside the door, but I don’t think I see the van. (Talking to someone else) Yeah, yeah, he took her, he took her away.
911: OK who are you talking with ma’am?
RAYNE: I’m talking to a Walmart employee. Oh my Gosh. Oh my Gosh.
911: Are you outside now, ma’am?
RAYNE: Yeah, there’s two police officers out here, two police cars.
911: OK, go ahead and speak with the officers.
RAYNE: Thank you.
[Feature Photo: Cherish Perrywinkle/Family Handout]