The murder of Cherish Perrywinkle shocked everyone back in 2013. The "The Innocent Kid From Walmart" case still cripples the hearts of thousands, benumbing them completely.
Let us check out all the details of this fateful assault-murder case, which is still the most spine-chilling in the country's history.
The Perrywinkle Family Background
Born to Rayne Perrywinkle and Billy Jerreau, Cherish Perrywinkle was one of the three daughters of their marriage. After a long custodial battle and back and forth court proceedings, Rayne finally won the custody of her daughters Neveah, Destiny, and Cherish Perrywinkle following their divorce in 2010.
Even though the court cited Rayne as the better parent and ruled in her favor, the custody evaluator Robert Wood was unsure of the decision. To back his statements, Wood argued that Rayne Perrywinkle fostered an unstable environment for the girls. He added that her boyfriend, Neveah's biological father, Aharon Pearson, and Rayne were negligent of the daughters.
All the arguments made sense to the court as the crime unraveled and took the world by storm. Cherish Perrywinkle's abduction and murder was in fact, a consequence of her mother's negligent attributes.
The Fateful Night
On the night of June 21, 2013, Cherish Perrywinkle, an eight-year-old child, was kidnapped from Jacksonville, Florida, while she was in the neighborhood dollar store with her mother, Rayne Perrywinkle. In the same dollar store, Donald James Smith, 56, approached the mother-daughter duo after anticipating their financial predicaments.
Smith convinced them into accompanying him to the nearby Walmart. He lured the family in the name of McDonald's burgers and some new clothes for Cherish Perrywinkle and her sisters. What seemed like a "too good to be true" treat turned into the most horrendous night of Cherish and Rayne's lives.
An Insight Into The Murder
The mother-daughter duo, just like anybody else, couldn't believe their fate. Someone was finally ready to help and provide. Like any mother in this world, Rayne was exceedingly ecstatic that her daughters would now have clothes and food.
On June 21, 2013, Cherish Perrywinkle and her mother went to the neighborhood Dollar Tree store. Here, the duo ran into Donald James Smith, a convicted predator and a listed sex offender ever since 1993. Smith had stepped out of prison 21 days before the incident.
Smith soon discerned the family's financial struggles and the inability of their mother to bear the expenses, which he strategized to use as bait to lure them into trusting him. He offered to help and purchase clothes for the girls with his gift card, which he and his supposed wife never used.
Initially dubious about the situation, Rayne fell for the trap, thinking she would meet his wife at Walmart. Furthermore, the fact that her girls would have access to clothes and food seemed a fair deal to her motherly instincts.
And so, they went. The clock hit 10:00 p.m., and the five of them were still waiting for Smith's wife, who didn't exist. Rayne Perrywinkle sensed the turn of events, but her hungry children were again lured by Smith, who now wanted to buy the family dinner from the McDonald's next door.
Rayne agreed, and Smith asked if he could take Cherish Perrywinkle along to buy dinner while they waited outside.
Heedless of what the next minute held, Rayne (below) agreed. Unaware that she was, in particular, seeing her beloved daughter for the last time, she let her go. It was the last time anyone saw Cherish alive.
Seconds turned to minutes and minutes to hours, and Rayne's sense of worry grew knew no lengths. She realized that the man wasn't returning. She rushed to the Walmart employee and asked for a cell phone to ring 911. The abduction was reported, and six hours post the frantic call to the police, police stamped an Amber Alert for the innocent girl.
Amber Alert spread like wildfire, and the police soon received support from Smith's roommate, Charlie. The only man who could have some information about the Smith and Cherish's whereabouts.
Proceedings in order, and at around 9:00 a.m. the following morning, Smith's van was identified in some CCTV footage around interstate 95. Alerts were issued, and the police soon pulled in Smith.
Discovery Of Cherish Perrywinkle's Body
Followed by Smith's arrest, a tipster tipped the police off the whereabouts of Smith's van near the Highland Baptist Church. What followed next shook the world.
Cherish Perrywinkle was found dead. Her body was mutilated, layered in bruises, ant bites, blood. The eight-year-old was throttled to death. The autopsy proved rape before the murder, blunt force trauma, and profusely bleeding gums, nose, and eyes due to strangling.
The site and condition of the little girl's body pricked the soul out of the investigators, who described the crime as blood-curdling. The jury ruled out the judgments teary-eyed and at a loss of words.
The doctor asked for some time alone, post her testimony, the medical examiner took a break halfway into the investigation. The doctors described the death as brutal torture and not regular murder.
Before being sentenced to death, Smith tried to use insanity for a while and even requested his mother to buy him a copy of DSM IV, a guide to mental disorders.
In some recordings, Smith can also be heard saying how he wished for a death sentence because he feared inmates might kill him in prison.
Smith was brought to justice and sentenced to death. All the DNA results and swab tests were against him. In fact, the test results were so on the dot that the doctors said if not Smith, it could only be an identical twin, which eliminated all false claims of rushed judgments down in drains.
Cherish Perrywinkle died a brutal death. The innocent soul did not deserve it.
Rayne Perrywinkle, upon hearing the judgment quotes how Smith should burn in hell and bursts into tears, saying how she wished Cherish lived to see the man pay for his deeds.