Cherish Perrywinkle

Cherish Perrywinkle: Watch LIVE here as closing arguments begin on day three of the trial

Both the defense and prosecution rested on Tuesday afternoon in the case of Florida girl, Cherish Perrywinkle, who was kidnapped, beaten, raped, and killed in 2013. The suspect on trial, Donald Smith, faces the death penalty if convicted.

“He tore apart. He sucked on her breast. He made her suck his penis. He left behind semen in her mouth and every part of her private area. Then he took something, we don’t know what–and he wrapped it around that little girl’s neck and strangled the life out of her,” the prosecution said while out Wednesday’s opening statements in a Duvall County courtroom.

Day two of the trial ended Tuesday with shocking details of the crime after Jacksonville Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Valerie Rao took the stand and described in graphic detail how the suspect allegedly caused so much trauma to the young girl while sexually assaulting her that the area between her vagina and anus was left “distorted” with only a “thin tissue” connecting the areas.

Rao also testified that Smith reportedly forced oral sex on the child and sucked on her her chest area so harshly that he left deep bruising on one of her breasts. He later hit her in the back of the head and then choked her death, causing bleeding in her eyes and damage to her mouth, nose, gum line, and chin.

Cherish was found lifeless in a body of water, but Rao said her cause of death was from asphyxiation. The suspects allegedly choked the victim so severely that the skin around her neck was found abraded and peeling off.

What You Need to Know

As CrimeOnline previously reported, on June 21, 2013, suspect Donald James Smith 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.

Smith had an extensive criminal record, which included a lewd assault on a child, an attempted abduction on a 13-year-old girl, harassing phone calls to a 9-year-old girl, and an attempted abduction on two teen girls by trying to lure them to his vehicle with pornographic magazines. The suspect’s criminal record dated back to 1977.

At close to 9 a.m. the following morning, officers spotted Smith’s van off of I-95 near downtown Jacksonville. As officers approached his vehicle and surrounded him, they noticed Smith, dirty and soaked in water, was wearing the same clothes he had on in the Walmart surveillance footage.

Around the same time, officers received a tip that a “suspicious” van was seen around Broward Road. After utilizing K-9 units, little Cherish’s lifeless body was found in a nearby swampy ditch.

She’d been badly beaten, raped, and murdered.

Check back with CrimeOnline as we continue to cover key details in the trial.

[Feature Photo: Cherish Perrywinkle/Family Handout]