JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The half-sister of murder victim Cherish Perrywinkle is pleading with the public to help her adopt Cherish's little sisters.
Lindsay Hoy is a name Jacksonville residents might not be familiar with. She's the eldest daughter of Cherish's mother, Rayne Perrywinkle. She lives in Queensland, Australia, and hasn't had much contact with her mother since Perrywinkle moved to the United States when Hoy was 5 years old.
Not long after 8-year-old Cherish was kidnapped, raped and murdered just over a year ago, Rayne Perrywinkle lost custody of Cherish's two little sisters, Destiny and Nevaeh. Hoy said they've been in foster care, and she's now fighting to have them in her life.
Hoy (pictured below) said she regrets not having the chance to meet Cherish and that's one reason she's pushing so hard to adopt her little sisters. Hoy, 27, said she's reached out to the Department of Children and Families but has had no luck in getting anyone there to hear her out.
Now a Jacksonville woman has helped create an online petition called "Together for Cherish" in hopes of bringing awareness to Hoy's cause.
In the two days since the petition was launched, it's garnered about 60 signatures. It symbolizes Hoy's plea to the public. She told Channel 4's Ashley Harding by phone from Australia that she desperately wants custody of her half-sisters.
"I want to be seen. I want to be heard. I'm not like my mom. I'm a completely different person. I'm my own individual," Hoy said. "I have a right to see my sisters. And my family has a right to have them in their life. They have a right to know me."
Hoy said since Cherish's violent death one year ago, she has become even more determined to be part of her half-sisters' lives. But she said when she's reached out to DCF about adopting them, she's hit a brick wall.
"It's extremely frustrating," Hoy said. "It's disgusting and completely unnecessary for them to still be in the foster care system when they've got a loving family over here who has tried from day one to get them here."
Laura Ferguson started the petition to help Hoy's cause.
"It's just better," Ferguson said. "They have a big family over there, a big support system. They want the girls. I know there's other family here trying to get the girls as well."
DCF provided this statement: "Ultimately, all custody decisions are made by judges. DCF may make recommendations for custody based on thorough background checks and investigations, but only judges have the authority to make final custody decisions."
As Hoy waits for answers, her mind is also constantly on Cherish, the little sister she never got to meet. She got a portrait tattoo of Cherish's face with the words "Cherish Forever" on her right arm as a way of keeping Cherish's memory with her.
"To be able to look at her every day, it just brings me up," Hoy said. "It just keeps me going. I'm going for her. I'm doing this all for those girls."
Hoy said she's trying to make it to the United States by August to increase her chances of adopting Destiny and Nevaeh. She wants to be in Jacksonville for the trial of Donald Smith, the man accused of murdering Cherish. That trial is set for October.
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