JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Just over an hour after a 56-year-old sex offender seen leaving a Northside Walmart Friday night with an 8-year-old girl was arrested Saturday morning, police say the girl's body was found at a Northside church.
Police say Donald Smith left the Walmart on Lem Turner Road with Charish Perriwinkle. He was taken into custody in a traffic stop about 9 a.m. Saturday on Interstate 95, but the girl was not with him.
About 10:15 a.m., an emotional Jacksonville Sheriff's Office spokesman announced the victim's body was found at a church on Broward Road.
"We located the body of Charish Perriwinkle," Officer Shannon Hartley said. "A very difficult time, obviously, for everyone involved."
Police say the child apparently left the store with Smith in a 1998 white Dodge 1500 van, Florida tag number BCBK32. That vehicle was stopped about 9 a.m. Saturday on I-95 near the Interstate 10 split.
Officer Hartley said Smith pulled over and offered no resistance as he was taken into custody. There was no sign of the girl in the van.
Within 30 minutes, police said they received a lead that led them to the church -- which Hartley did not name -- where the body was found.
AS IT HAPPENED: Police announce Charish Perriwinkle's body was found
Police say officers were called to the Walmart on Lem Turner Road at 11 p.m. Friday to a report of a missing girl. They quickly determined the girl was abducted. Overnight, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement issued a statewide Amber Alert.
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Sgt. Lonnie Mills said Smith met and befriended the mother and her three children at the store and took Charish to get her a snack.
"When he got to the front of the store under the guise of going to the McDonalds, (he) just continued, got into the vehicle with her and was last seen driving south on Lem Turner," Mills said.
Based on the description of the suspect provided by the victim's mother, detectives showed her a photograph of Donald J. Smith (pictured, right in Walmart surveillance photo) and she identified him as the person that had taken Charish.
Smith has been in Florida's sex offender database since a 1992 conviction in Duval County for attempted kidnapping and selling obscene materials. According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office jail database, Smith was arrested in 2003 on charges of burglary and dealing in stolen property and in 2006 for a parole violation.
In 2009 Smith was charged with child abuse, making obscene phone calls to a 10-year-old girl and making verbal threats. According to the arrest report he claimed he was a social worker with the Florida Department of Children and Families and told the family they were under investigation by the state.
With the approval of the family, Smith was allowed to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of attempted child abuse and attempted impersonation of a public employee. Smith was just released May 31.
After his release, neighbors said Smith lived with his mother in her home on Segovia Avenue in Lakewood. The address is within a half mile of Dupont Middle School.
Among many things police are investigating in connection with what is now a homicide case is a second vehicle that may have been involved. They do not have a good description and only a pixilated picture of that vehicle (right), which they believe to be a car.
Anyone who has any information about the case is asked to contact the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500 or by email at JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. To remain anonymous and receive a possible reward, contact Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS.
"Hug your children closely right now and know where they're at," Officer Hartley said. "Keep them close."