On Wednesday, convicted child rapist and killer Donald Smith appeared in a Jacksonville, Florida, courtroom for a Spencer Hearing, where he listened to the words of the little girl’s mother, who reminded him of the precious life he took from many people. The girl’s mother also had words for a woman she said has been stalking her in an attempt to write a book about assisting the mentally ill.
“I lost Cherish in the most violent way possible,” Rayne Perrywinkle told Judge Mallory Cooper on Wednesday’s hearing. “I have so much rage inside of me because of what he did. I have never felt so much anger in my life…..It’s been four years and one month, but for me, it always feels like yesterday.”
Under Florida law, anyone sentenced to death has the right to a Spencer Hearing, meaning the right for the defendant’s lawyers to present additional information to help convince the judge to spare the convict’s life. The hearing, named after the 1993 case of Spencer v. Florida, also allows the victim’s family to speak, and in some instances, witnesses for the defendant and even the defendant to speak. Perrywinkle was the only person in attendance at the hearing to speak on her behalf, although the child’s father wrote a statement, provided in court by his lawyer.
Smith, who was sentenced to death last month for raping and murdering 8-year-old Cherish, declined to testify at the hearing, and showed no emotion as Perrywinkle cried freely while reading a victim impact statement. Smith’s defense attorneys didn’t call any witnesses to the stand, but a writer was in attendance, who traveled to Jacksonville with the initial purpose of testifying on Smith’s behalf.
Nori. St. Paul is currently working on a book regarding, in part, mental illness awareness and treatment. St. Paul’s presence in the courtroom didn’t go unnoticed by Perrywinkle, who has had an ongoing feud with St. Paul after learning the writer didn’t believe Smith should get the death penalty.
“She’s a stalker,” Perrywinkle told CrimeOnline. “She befriended me years ago under the guise of showing compassion, but she was really trying to get information for her book.”
CrimeOnline spoke to St. Paul, who said she indeed went to the hearing with the initial intentions of testifying on Smith’s behalf, but declined when the defense told her to trim down her prepared statement regarding her views on opposing the death penalty.
“I agreed to do this testifying by speaking ‘on behalf of some of the mitigation,’ not given any weight by the jury at the death sentence, specifically mental illness/pedophilia. Remember the defense had previously pleaded for mercy for Smith. I brought along some of my research to include a successful program for youth pedophiles in another country to demonstrate that youth seeking treatment are responding favorably, but not so much in US yet.”
St. Paul also admitted that she talks to Smith and that he understands her mission to promote awareness and prevention in those deemed mentally ill.
“I have been in contact with Smith and he is aware of my project toward prevention, new education, awareness, compassion and healing.”
Perrywinkle, however, feels that St. Paul is exploiting her daughter Cherish, who was found raped and murdered in 2013 after Smith took the little girl from a Jacksonville Walmart. Perrywinkle said she’s astonished and outraged that St. Paul continues to “defend that monster” and talk to him on the phone.
The grieving mother also said that St. Paul has been insidiously taunting her on Facebook by talking about her daughter’s case and showing empathy toward Smith, while pushing her views on “compassion for convicted pedophiles.”
“She’s as fake as a three dollar bill,” Perrywinkle told CrimeOnline. “She should have left the courtroom and given Cherish some dignity. She shouldn’t have been there in the first place, but she should have left the room after seeing I was so upset….She’s ignored my many pleas to take her down her posts and to stay away from the courtroom. This is my child! She just won’t stop.”
St. Paul, however, indicated that Perrywinkle has been bullying her and “orchestrating a cyberstalking defamatory hate campaign” against her that began around March 3. Regardless, St. Paul indicated that based on the research she’s done into mental illness and pedophilia, she feels Smith deserves compassion instead of death.
“Donald Smith deserves compassion—he is mentally ill. Brain damaged too [according to] the testimony. Donald Smith committed a most heinous unimaginable crime. He should be punished severely. I am anti death penalty as is Pope Frances and others. The death penalty has not proven efficacious or cost effective. It is not a deterrent statistically.”
Both sides have said they plan to press legal charges against the other. While Perrywinkle plans to file a restraining order, St. Paul said she filed a police report against Perrywinkle after alleged constant harassment on social media and via phone messages.
Meanwhile, the judge is expected to rule on the final decision on Smith’s capital punishment convicted on May 2.
[Feature Photo: Cherish Perrywinkle/Handout]