A Duvall County, Florida, jury unanimously decided on Wednesday afternoon that convicted child killer, Donald Smith, will face death.
On the third day of the penalty phase for 61-year-old Donald Smith, both the prosecution and defense made closing arguments before the jury left the courtroom for deliberations. The jury decided that the prosecution provided enough evidence to warrant the death sentence for Smith.
Under Florida law, the entire jury has to agree to the sentence. All 12 jurors agreed on the sentence. The suspect said emotionless as the verdict was read by Judge Mallory D. Cooper.
What You Need to Know
As CrimeOnline previously reported, on June 21, 2013, Smith, then 57, approached single, struggling mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, at the Dollar General store on Edgewood Avenue West in Jacksonville. Smith 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 gift card at a nearby Walmart after talking with her for a few hours about his own past financial struggles.
Smith drove Perrywinkle and her daughter, 8-year-old Cherish, along with 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., while they shopped inside Walmart, Smith’s wife still hadn’t arrived. It’s still unclear whether she ever existed, as Perrywinkle never once saw her. Smith then suggested getting food at the McDonald’s inside the store while waiting for his wife, and asked Cherish to accompany him and pick out the food she wanted. Perrywinkle, assuming that her daughter was safe inside a store with surveillance cameras an numerous employees, allowed Cherish to accompany him.
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.
“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.”
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 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.
[Feature Photo: Cherish Perrywinkle/Family Handout, Donald Smith/Screenshot]