Founder of missing children organization speaks about Cherish investigation


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The founder of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, who is no longer affiliated with the organization, spoke out Friday, saying the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office should have reacted sooner in the kidnapping of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle.

"The children in this country who are kidnapped and murdered are killed within three hours' time," said Jay Howell.

Given that statistic, Howell said it can't be known if those precious moments would have made the difference in finding Cherish alive the night she was abducted from a Northside Walmart.

Howell reviewed JSO's Internal Affairs report that admits officers had delayed initiating an aggressive search for the girl.

The report points to a 911 dispatcher and the concerns of officers at the scene that Cherish's mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, may have been lying about the June 21 abduction.

Howell says that was a mistake.

"You only have a limited time, and here you had a credible report of a kidnapping, you have surveillance footage that showed Cherish leaving the store with this man," he said.

Even after that, the report reveals an Amber Alert was activated about three hours after Rayne reported her daughter had been kidnapped.

Howell said the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children strives to teach law enforcement to always react aggressively with all reports of child abductions.

"We need to do some more training and focus on these policies, particularly the ones that trigger Child Abduction Response Team and fine-tune it so that the earlier on-the-scene judgment about being concerned doesn't override the need to search for the child," Howell said.

Rayne declined to speak Friday, but on Thursday night, she said, "I don't feel better. I respect the police for doing their job, I really do, because they've worked a lot of hours. But I think if they would have done their job faster and not blamed me for it in the beginning, Cherish would be here, I truly believe."