A Florida man previously sentenced to death for the murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle learned on Wednesday that a judge upheld his death sentence. The little girl’s mother was in court while the judge read the convict his sentencing.
Judge Mallory Cooper not only upheld Donald Smith’s death sentence in a Duval County courtroom on Wednesday morning, but she also denied a retrial in the high-profile case. Rayne Perrywinkle, although visibly upset after the court hearing, stopped to thank a juror who helped convict Smith for abducting, raping, and killing Cherish.
— anne schindler (@schindy) May 2, 2018
“He can burn in Hell! I wanted to yell that to him in the courtroom,” Rayne Perrywinkle told CrimeOnline on Wednesday evening. “I’ve been wanting to say this for more than four years. I wanted to yell it to him in the courtroom but I wasn’t allowed and I never had a chance…but I wanted that demon to hear it from my mouth!”
As CrimeOnline previously reported, on June 21, 2013, Smith, a master manipulating con man and convicted pedophile, approached the single, struggling mother, Rayne, at the Dollar General store on Edgewood Avenue West in Jacksonville.
Smith first offered to buy Rayne’s daughter a dress, then offered to buy the mother a $150 gift card. He somehow convinced Rayne to ride with him to pick up the card at a nearby Walmart. Smith drove Rayne, 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, Rayne became nervous and called the police.
After a lapse in time while discussing strategies to find the little girl, officers began canvassing the area. 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 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 the 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. The convict claimed he had no idea who Cherish was and that he’d been out all night with prostitutes while smoking crack cocaine.
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 partially clothed in a nearby swampy ditch, in around six inches of water behind Highlands Baptist Church at the Trout River.
She’d been badly beaten, raped, and murdered.
“I wish I could have protected Cherish better that night,” Rayne told CrimeOnline. “People keep telling me I couldn’t watch my own child but it’s not Christian to hate or judge. I didn’t know he was predator until it was too late. The cops knew he was but we didn’t, and I’m finding it so incredibly difficult to function day in and day out.”
“I wish this was just a dream and I could wake up and everything returns to normal, but it’s never going to be the same.”
Rayne is turning to advocacy and hopes to help other parents learn from her tragic mistakes. She said she’d also love to meet the rest of the jurors and thank them for thinking of Cherish and bringing a “monster” to justice.
[Feature Photo: Cherish Perrywinkle/Handout]