JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After a short hearing Thursday morning about who should have custody of Cherish Perrywinkle's sisters, all parties were ordered back to family court on Aug. 20.
Rayne Perrywinkle, the mother of the slain 8-year-old girl, is trying to regain custody of her other two daughters, 5-year-old Neveah and 4-year-old Destiny. Attorneys for the state and the children requested she be required to undergo an immediate drug test. The attorney's in this case say this is a common practice. The results of this test were not disclosed however, she also submitted to a drug test when the girls were first taken away and passed.
Rayne said earlier this week she feels her children were wrongly taken away and were never in danger.
"I'm doing everything that I possibly can to work with the judge and work with DCF or (Mental Health Resource Center) to get my children back," she said.
Aharon Pearson, the girls' father, as well as his father, Tom Pearson, are also fighting for custody. Aharon and Rayne are no longer dating. The daughters were not in court, nor was Aharon Pearson, though he did appear by phone from Gainesville, where he's working.
Aharon Pearson said Thursday night that life without his little angels is painful.
"I've never been without them, I've never been one day without them, it's very, very hard, very hard," said Pearson. "I think about them every day. Their pictures are on my phone, it's very hard."
"DCF and these agencies, they just want to make sure that we've gotten ourselves together and we're on the right track to be able to take care of our children, and that's their job and I'm going to cooperate with whatever they ask me to do," Pearson added.
Aharon Pearson said the Department of Children and Families has asked him to get a 2 bedroom apartment and until then, his 5- and 6-year-old daughters will have to live with their grandfather.
"They've known my dad all their lives and they're comfortable with him," said Pearson. "I would like them to be with him obviously until I do what I have to do to get them."
Aharon Pearson said it's just more pain he and his family will have to go through, while the pain of losing Cherish is still so fresh in their hearts.
"I miss her every day. I think about her every day," said Pearson.
Patricia Parker, the attorney for the daughters, said she's not taking sides in the custody fight but is just looking out for the kids. She said if they can be safe and healthy, then it would be OK for them to go back home. Parker said she just wants to ensure that would be the case.
Tom Pearson said he's hoping for temporary custody of the girls and wants them to stay with him in White Springs. He said their parents just aren't the best choice right now.
He said he doesn't know what his son has to say right now, but last time they talked, his son wanted him to take the kids for a bit.
"I'm not trying to steal anybody's kids. I'm just trying to do what's best for my babies," Tom Pearson said. "I believe it's the best thing for them at this point because of the instability of the parents at this time."
At the hearing, Judge David Gooding asked how the girls were doing.
"Are we all set for school to start?" he said.
The judge made no long-term decisions Thursday, so the girls will continue to stay with their counselor. He ordered the parents complete a series of tasks to prove they can take care of the kids if given the opportunity. Destiny and Nevaeh's lawyer said the girls are in good hands until the judge decides what to do.
"They're ready for school and they are safe and they're happy and they're having contact with the parents," Parker said. "This is a very tough case and everybody feels for the parents, absolutely, and everybody is just concerned about the girls."
Attorneys said they want an audit of the accounts set up to receive donations to see where the money has been going.
Police say 8-year-old Cherish was kidnapped, raped and killed on June 21. On July 10, the Department of Children and Families removed the girl's half-sisters from their home.
Gooding said the custody fight could last months. He said he wants to make sure he makes the right choice.
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