Sex offender accused in abduction, killing girl

Man seen leaving Jacksonville Walmart with girl released from jail 21 days ago

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Police say the 56-year-old man who abducted an 8-year-old girl from a Lem Turner Road Walmart on Friday night is now charged with kidnapping and murder.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said Donald Smith was stopped in a van about 9 a.m. -- the same white Dodge van he was seen driving away from the store with after walking out with Charish Perriwinkle 10 hours earlier. 

The girl was not in the van. While police said having him in custody was a major development in the case, efforts to find Charish continued.

Based on the be-on-the-lookout dispatch for the white Dodge van seen leaving the Walmart Friday night, police pull over Donald Smith about 9 a.m. Saturday on Interstate 95 near the I-10 split.Nikko Bennett posted video recorded as he passed the traffic stop on YouTube.

Less than one hour later, police announced they got a tip about suspicious activity at an unnamed church on Broward Road that prompted a search of the property with K9 units and other resources. Channel 4 learned the location was in woods near Highlands Baptist Church.

"We located the body of Charish Perriwinkle," Officer Shannon Hartley said. "A very difficult time, obviously, for everyone involved."

POLICE BRIEFINGS: 10:15 a.m. - Body found | 3 p.m. - Donald Smith charged with murder

Later Saturday, police released a few more details, saying they were waiting on the medical examiner's office for a positive identification and cause of death, but that Smith was booked into the Duval County jail.


Police say officers were called to the Walmart on Lem Turner Road at 11:18 p.m. Friday to a report of a missing girl. Early Saturday morning, they determined the girl was abducted and put out an alert looking for Smith's van. Just after 5 a.m. Saturday, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement issued a statewide Amber Alert.

Police said Smith met and befriended the mother and three children earlier in the evening at the Dollar General on Edgewood Avenue West. They agreed to go together to Walmart, where he said he would buy the family clothes and other items.

"After being inside the store for a couple of hours, the man then offered to buy some hamburgers," said JSO Director Mike Williams. "As he walked to the front of the store, he took our 8-year-old victim with him."

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office released this photo of Donald Smith inside the Lem Turner Road Walmart, where he took the Perrywinkle family under the guise of buying them clothes. Surveillance cameras show Smith leaving the store with Cherish at 10:41 p.m. Friday.

When they had not returned after about 30 minutes, the mother called police. Based on the description of the suspect, detectives showed her a photograph of Donald J. Smith (pictured, right, in Walmart surveillance photo) and she identified him as the man who took 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 accused of 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.

Police say Smith had complied with the requirements of the state to register his address, and the JSO had verified his whereabouts Friday morning.

Police urge parents to be careful of those who would do them or their children harm.

"Pay attention to your surroundings. Pay attention to who you meet, who you give access of your children to," said Director Williams.

The investigation into Charish's abduction and murder continues. 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 To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS.

About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.