Closing arguments during day three of the trial against a Florida man accused of beating, raping, and killing 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle ended once the defense waived its right, shortly after the prosecution reminded the jury of the terror and pain the victim felt before she died.
Inside a Duval County courtroom, Judge Mallory Cooper reminded the jury of what the suspect, Donald James Smith, 61, is accused of and instructed them on how proceed in deliberations. Should the jury find the suspect guilty, the penalty phase of the trial is expected to last around three to four days. Smith faces the death penalty if convicted.
The third day of the trial started out with Prosecutor Mark Caliel going over the key details of the brutal crime and how the victim endured torture and sexual abuse before she was beaten, killed, and discarded into a body of water.
“He (Donald Smith) made her feel safe with his lies and deception and then he preyed upon her,” Caliel said. “That little girl had to endure a nightmare no child should have to endure. If you have anger inside of you, it’s not because of what I said or (State Attorney Melissa) Nelson said. It’s because of what you saw. It’s because of what he did.”
“He looks like a harmless old man. Little did she know (Rayne Perrywinkle) what lurked beneath the surface….The true killer of Cherish Perrywinkle sits across the courtroom from you right now. Those are the facts. They are undisputed. They are overwhelming. So, what do you do with those facts? “-Prosecutor Mark Caliel
Caliel also replayed a secretly-recorded audio that reportedly took place between Smith and another inmate inside the Duval County jail, in which the suspect allegedly confessed to the crime, while making a crude comment after young girls taking a tour of jail, around 12 years old, passed by his cell.
Smith: “You know how old they are? About 12.”
Inmate: “You said they were 12?”
Smith: “Yeah. That’s right up my alley right there.”
Smith: “That’s my target area right there. That’s what I go after.”
Inmate: “Well then you would have fun with that one…”
Smith: “I’d like to run into her at Walmart.”
Caliel ended the closing arguments by reminding the jury that they are the only hope in getting justice for Cherish Perrywinkle.
“From the grave she’s crying out to you: ‘Donald Smith raped me. … Donald Smith strangled me until every last breath left my body. In the final moments of her life, this defendant took from that little girl everything that was innocent and pure. And then he took her life. Now it’s time to hold him accountable for what he did.”
Check back with CrimeOnline as we continue to cover key details in the trial.
[Feature Photo: Cherish Perrywinkle/Family Handout, Donald Smith/Screenshot, First Coast News]