Neighborhood remembers Cherish Perrywinkle one year later

JACKSONVILLE,Fla. – It has been one year since Cherish Perrywinkle was kidnapped, raped and murdered. She was 8 years old at the time.

Residents in Cherish's old neighborhood spoke Saturday with News4Jax about that day.

"Beautiful, long, beautiful black hair; she was gorgeous. All three of them were gorgeous but Cherish in particular was gorgeous. Creative, she wanted to be an artist, I know that," said one neighbor who didn't want to be identified.

That's how Cherish's neighbor remembers the vibrant 8-year-old. Even a year after her tragic death, those special moments are as clear as ever.

"She used to come over here and play with my dogs all the time. I miss that," said the unidentified neighbor.

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, raping and killing Cherish Perrywinkle last June. Police say he took her from a Northside Walmart.

In the year following Cherish's death, her mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, has moved out of the house she shared with Cherish and her two other daughters who are now in foster care.

The streets of the neighborhood were empty Saturday, a far cry from how this neighbor looked like they looked last year when police found Cherish's body.

"Actually Rayne crying woke me up. You could hear it literally down the street and I was just terrified to look out the door and I opened the door and everybody was outside crying and hugging," said the unidentified neighbor.

Police arrested and charged 57-year-old Donald Smith, who befriended the girl's mother at a Northside dollar store and went with the two to a nearby Walmart to buy clothes.

Investigators said Smith offered to take Cherish with him to get something to eat and left with the girl. After searching for his van for hours, officers found it on I-95 and shortly after found Cherish's body.

Smith's trial is scheduled to begin in October.

It's not just those who knew Cherish well who can't forget that day, but also those who didn't even know her at all.

"Just love your kids because we never know," said Myra Brown.

Brown said she still thinks about the Perrywinkle case.

"I was thinking about my grandkids and kids, you know, it could have been one of my kids, you know. I was feeling for the mother, you know, what had happened to her and you have to put yourself in their shoes," said Brown.

Full Screen
1 / 6