Inside a Duval County courtroom on Wednesday, a jury found Donald Smith guilty of numerous felony counts, including murder, rape, and kidnapping.
Smith’s trial began on Monday morning with 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle’s mother taking the stand and reliving the traumatic day in 2013, when Smith took her child from a Jacksonville Walmart. The little girl was later found deceased in a body of water after Smith beat her, forced oral sex on her, raped her, then choked her to death.
On Tuesday, Jacksonville Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Valerie Rao took the stand and described abnormalities found on the suspect’s genitalia caused by “sucking motion with significant force.” Rao also explained that the suspect’s injuries on his genitals were “fresh” during the time the photos were taken and “consistent with the time frame of the death of this child.”
Further, Rao testified that the victim had extreme trauma to both her vaginal and anal area. The medical examiner stated that the trauma was so extreme that area between the victim’s vagina and anus was completely ripped to where only a “thin tissue” remained.
Although Cherish was found in a body of water, Rao testified that she didn’t die from drowning. Instead, Rao said the little girl was choked to death prior to the suspect allegedly dumping her body. Cherish also had blunt force trauma to the back of her head and severe bruising on her chest area from “someone sucking on her breasts,” according to Rao.
Additional injuries on the child included scratches and bruising on her legs and buttocks, and brain swelling due to lack of oxygen from asphyxiation. The suspect allegedly choked the child so severely that the skin around her throat and neck abraded and peeled off. Further, Cherish’s mouth, nose, gum line, and chin were damaged from the impact of the strangulation.
On Wednesday, the defense waived its right to closing argument after the prosecution reminded the jury of the horrific abuse Cherish endured at the hands of Smith.
“He tore her apart. He sucked on her breast. He made her suck his penis. He left behind semen in her mouth and every part of her private area. Then he took something, we don’t know what–and he wrapped it around that little girl’s neck and strangled the life out of her,” said Prosecutor Mark Caliel.
“He (Donald Smith) made her feel safe with his lies and deception and then he preyed upon her,” Caliel added. “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 cover the upcoming penalty phase of the trial.
[Feature Photo: Cherish Perrywinkle/Family Handout, Donald Smith/Screenshot, First Coast News]