Some potential jurors were visibly shaken in a Jacksonville courtroom, while listening to details regarding the upcoming trial against a Florida man accused of kidnapping, raping, and killing a Florida girl. During pre-trial testimony earlier this week, shocking details emerged when a medical examiner explained the significant injuries found on the little girl’s body.
People reports that the defense tried in vain to keep graphic photos taken of the little girl, Cherish Perrywinkle, out of the upcoming trial, but Circuit Judge Mallory Cooper ruled that the jury will be allowed to see them. Medical Examiner Valerie Rao said that the girl’s injuries were “extremely shocking,” and the photos apparently show the damage that 61-year Donald James Smith allegedly inflicted upon the 8-year-old in 2013.
— Chris Parenteau (@WJXTChris) February 9, 2018
Around three hundred potential jurors filed into the Jacksonville courtroom this week, where they were shown an up-close photo of a little girl with big brown eyes. One juror exhibited a strong reaction after viewing it, according to NBC’s First Coast News. The same potential juror indicated she was “squeamish” about looking at gory photos, while another possible teared up and said she would “lose it” during a trial involving crimes against a child.
The blunt reasons some potential jurors are not being selected in the trial for the man accused of raping, killing 8yr-old Cherish Perrywinkle.. @ 5p @wjxt4 https://t.co/qSdMRzwH4b pic.twitter.com/A8SlpT0X4w
— Joy Purdy (@WJXTJoyPurdy) February 7, 2018
“[The trial will] involve the most graphic photos you could possibly imagine,” Smith’s attorney Julie Schlax replied.
Jury selection for the case that shocked the Jacksonville community and the nation is schedule to begin on February 12.
Cherish Perrywinkle: What You Need to Know
As CrimeOnline previously reported, On June 21, 2013, a man approached a single, struggling mother, Reyne Perrywinkle, at the Dollar General store on Edgewood Avenue West in Jacksonville. The man, later identified as Smith, first offered to buy the mom a dress.
He then offered to buy the mother a $100 gift card and somehow convinced her to ride with him to pick up the card at a nearby Walmart. Smith drove Perrywinkle, her daughter, 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 clothes.
At around 11 p.m., Smith’s supposed wife was nowhere to be found. It’s still unclear whether she ever existed. He suggested getting food at the McDonald’s inside the store and asked for Cherish to accompany him and pick out the food she wanted. After 30 minutes passed and her daughter hadn’t returned, Perrywinkle became nervous and called the police.
“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 the little girl. They obtained surveillance footage from Walmart and watched Smith exiting the store with Cherish 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 around 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.
Smith’s defense lawyers have yet to give an explanation or defense for Smith’s actions. Instead they’ve been arguing that he wouldn’t receive a fair trial in Jacksonville or it’s surrounding areas.
The suspect could face the death penalty if convicted. Sentencing will occur during the trial’s penalty phase, should Smith be found guilty.
Check back with CrimeOnline as we provide upcoming trial coverage.
[Feature Photo: Cherish Perrywinkle/Family Handout]