The Florida man who raped, beat, and killed 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle was sentenced to death by a Jacksonville jury last week, but the sentence resulted in clashing opinions and heated debates as the little girl’s mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, went head-to-head with a writer staunchly opposed to the death penalty.
Three days after 61-year-old Donald Smith was sentenced to die for the 2013 rape and murder of Cherish, Nori St. Paul, a former columnist and current writer who focuses on contemporary social issues, took to Facebook to express her views on Smith’s sentence. St. Paul, who’s against the death penalty regardless of the crimes committed, wrote that although she felt deeply for Cherish’s family, see thinks that Smith shouldn’t be sentenced to die.
“The jury recommended the death penalty. I am against executing a person for punishment-even this tragic and atrocious crime,” St. Paul wrote. “I grieve with her [Rayne Perrywinkle] and for her and her family. But humbly I don’t agree with execution. I’m against the death penalty.”
“The defendant was motionless as the judge read the decision, the ‘no’ to almost every mitigator,” St. Paul continued. “I spoke to him later, the defendant. While I sat there listening to the mitigators denied, I knew my work would see my full passion and ongoing courage to continue speaking out about the need to address mental illness in America in a new way. To be big.”
St. Paul’s message hit a sore spot, not only with Perrywinkle, but with Kerri-Anne Buck, who was just 13 in 1992 when Smith tried to abduct her as she walked to a friend’s house in Jacksonville. Buck fled to a nearby elementary school and wedged herself inside a tunnel slide to evade Smith, but he stood close by, calling her vulgar names and threatening her.
Smith eventually left the playground area, but it’s an experience that Bucks, who testified against Smith during the penalty phase of his trial, will never forget.
“How dare you exploit the pain and suffering of a mother who lost her child. I myself was exposed to this monster,” Bucks wrote to St. Paul. “I know first hand the fear that precious angel felt. You have no idea, and for you to say you are grieving also!!!
“That man is NOT mentally ill!!! He is the devil himself and the death penalty is even too good for him. However speaking on mental illness. I think it takes true mental illness to defend a monster like him.”
Perrywinkle told CrimeOnline that felt St. Paul was exploiting her daughter’s tragedy to push her own agenda against the death penalty while trying to make money off of her dead child.
Apparently, St. Paul sent Perrywinkle a friend request on Facebook shortly after Smith killed and raped Cherish, under the pretenses that she felt bad for Perrywinkle and wanted to offer her support. Now, Perrywinkle said she felt St. Paul was trying to gather enough information as possible to help stop Smith from facing the death penalty.
“I truly believe her sole purpose to befriend me was to gather information, even though I didn’t tell her hardly anything about Cherish at all. She wrote to me and told me she felt bad. That was her opening line, that she had heard about Cherish and she felt bad, but she is minimizing this rising problem with pedophilia. It’s gotta be stopped. It’s a cop-out. It’s a scapegoat for her to gain her followers.”
CrimeOnline spoke to St. Paul who said her mission was made evident the first day she spoke to Perrywinkle and that nothing was under false pretenses.
“My work covers vast areas of humanity and is research based lending itself to a new awareness of mental illness, addiction, child abuse, and prevention. Compassion is an important component of my work and the conceptual framework. I prefer to help us address these issues in a much needed new and proactive light.”
St. Paul wasn’t the only protesting Smith’s sentence. Shortly after the death penalty was handed down to Smith last Thursday, anti-death penalty protesters with the St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Orange Park stood outside the Duval County Courthouse while explaining why they thought death should never be handed down as punishment.
“This is a difficult case for all of us here,” said Beverly DiStefano, one of the sisters of the church, told First Coast News. “I understand their anger. I understand their feelings toward Mr. Smith, but still again, I think about our God. He said in the Ten Commandments, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’”
Perrywinkle, who told CrimeOnline that the protesters wouldn’t speak directly to her, said there was another Bible quote that the protesters left out.
“The Bible says, ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.'”
[Feature Photo: Cherish Perrywinkle/Handout]