Cherish Perrywinkle and Donald Smith

‘He told me to get the f*** in the van’: Victim of convicted Walmart child killer takes the stand, faces him for the first time in over 20 years

The sentencing phase for convicted child killer and rapist Donald Smith began on Tuesday with a petrified woman who relived her experiences with Smith, who tried to attack her in 1992.

“He told me to get the f*** in the van,” Kerri Ann Buck told the jury while on the stand in a Jacksonville courtroom on Tuesday morning. “I knew he was going to hurt me.”

Buck was just 13 years old on September 27, 1992, when Smith approached her while she was walking to her friend Tamara’s house after church.

Prosecutor Mark Caliel: “As you were walking to Tamara’s house, did you encounter a man in a van?”

Buck: “Yes.”

Caliel: “Could you describe the van to me?”

Buck: “It was a grey van. Um, the side windows were tinted and um, it was a Chevy I believe.”

Similar to how Smith lured in 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle in 2013, he also tried to get Buck inside his van. Buck, however, sensing danger, ran and hid inside a tubular slide at a nearby elementary school playground. Smith followed her, but couldn’t find her hiding spot. He stood close by, cursing at her and waiting for her to come out of hiding.

“I know you’re in there, you little b****, and I’m going to find you.”

“I was scared. I was slipping. I was so afraid I was going to fall out and he was going to find me,” Buck said.

Smith eventually walked away, but a few days later, showed up outside of Buck’s house. Her family jotted down his license plate number and promptly called the police. Smith was arrested and later convicted for attempted kidnapping. He served six years in prison.

The incident was just one of the many times Smith was arrested. He has a long criminal history of violence, sexual assault, theft and robbery. In 1974, he was arrested for auto theft, followed by a 1982 arrest for burglary and grand theft auto.

In 1986, he was arrested for battery, followed by a 1991 conviction of grand theft auto and burglary. In 1998, he was convicted of cocaine possession, followed by a 2008 conviction of stealing personal property. In 2009, he was arrested for impersonating a public employee, extortion, child abuse, and obscene telephone calls to a young girl.

In 2013, Smith was arrested for murder, kidnapping, and sexual battery, after he lured Cherish out of Walmart and into his van, where he brutally raped, beat, and killed her, then tossed her body into a swampy creek.

Last week, a jury convicted Smith of killing, beating, and raping Cherish. He faces death.

What You Need to Know

As CrimeOnline previously reported, on June 21, 2013, suspect Donald James Smith, then 57,  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 $150 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.

Cherish Perrywinkle [Photo: Family Handout]

“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, Donald Smith/Screenshot]