JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A year ago Saturday, Rayne Perrywinkle called 911 to report the abduction of her daughter, Cherish, from a Northside Walmart.
Cherish's body was found hours later and 56-year-old registered sexual offender Donald Smith (pictured below) was arrested and charged with kidnapping, raping and killing the 8-year-old girl. Smith is awaiting trial in October.
The case rocked the Jacksonville community last year and had far-reaching consequences for everyone from a grieving mother to how the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office responds to missing persons cases to tougher sexual offender laws passed by the Florida legislature.
With that family’s approval, Smith pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of attempted child abuse and attempted impersonation of a public employee. He served 14 months in the Duval County Jail and was released May 31.
"This is all a fight for Cherish now and justice for Cherish," Telzer said. "Even though I'm with Rayne every week, (we) speak every day, I am not in her shoes. No one is in her shoes. How do you think that someone like this is handling what she's going through. It's been a very difficult year and it's not over, and it will never be over."
Diena Thompson was joined by other victim advocates supporting Rayne Perrywinkle in the courtroom. Donald Smith appeared before a judge for a pretrial hearing. His trial is scheduled to start in October. Smith is charged with kidnapping,…
The case also helped prompt changes in state law. Gov. Rick Scott, citing Cherish's case and others, signed four landmark bills in April to better protect children in Florida from sexual predators. The bills tighten rules and close loopholes for sex offenders to make sure once they are behind bars, they stay there.
"Because we need to stop predators that are walking the streets where they don't belong," Telzer said. "That are out from jail that perhaps shouldn't be out from jail, so that things like what happened to Cherish will never happen again."
News4Jax asked if Rayne Perrywinkle would like to comment on the anniversary and was told she wants to keep her life private right now.
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