Murdered girl's mother: 'Pain is still very real'

Donald Smith's trial set to begin April 4, 2016, in killing of Cherish Perrywinkle


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The mother of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle wants the man accused of killing and raping her daughter in 2013 sentenced to death.

Donald Smith appeared in court Tuesday morning for a pretrial hearing, where his trial date was set for April 4, 2016.

Rayne Perrywinkle said it has been a very long two years since her daughter was kidnapped, raped and killed on June 21, 2013.

She said she's eager to get the court proceedings over and done with after Smith's trial date has been pushed back four times.

Perrywinkle said she's still in pain.

"I still feel just like I did, as if it happened yesterday. The pain is still very real. It's emotional pain. It's devastating," Perrywinkle said. "I wouldn't wish this on anyone. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy."


Smith, whom prosecutors said befriended Perrywinkle's family at a Northside Walmart before abducting her, is scheduled for his next court appearance on Nov. 2. At that court date, change of venue motions will be discussed.

Smith's attorneys want the case moved out of Duval County, because they don't believe an impartial jury can be found because of all of the pretrial coverage.

Julie Schlax, a former prosecutor, has been appointed to represent Smith. A second attorney was also appointed to assist with the penalty phase, because the prosecution intends to seek the death penalty.

That's something Perrywinkle said Smith deserves.

"No one wants to watch someone die, but this is justice for my little girl," Perrywinkle said.

Smith is a convicted sex predator. He was released from jail just three weeks before Cherish's murder.

It's expected that Smith's mental health will be discussed during the trial.

Perywinkle's other daughters are now in the care of a family friend under the supervision of the Department of Children and Families.

"We don't talk about it much. We don't talk about it much at all," Perrywinkle said of her daughter's death. "They're too young right now to know."

Perrywinkle said she's monitored when she sees her children. She said she goes to counseling once a week.

"The reality hasn't sunk in yet, but there are times when I fall apart and I have to pinch myself and say, 'Is this thing really happening? It's not happening.' But it is," Perrywinkle said.

Perrywinkle said she will be in the courtroom for all of Smith's hearings. 

The crime

On June 21, 2013, Cherish Perrywinkle disappeared from a Walmart store on Jacksonville's Northside.


The 8-year-old (pictured) had been driven to the store with her mother and two younger sisters by a man her mother had met at another store. Police said Donald Smith approached Cherish's mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, while she and her daughters were shopping and offered to help them.

Rayne Perrywinkle told police that Smith said he had a gift card to Walmart and would buy the children clothes if they traveled together to the store. He was a stranger to the family, but she accepted the ride.

Police said that while inside the store on Lem Turner Road, Smith told Cherish's mom he would take the girl to the McDonald's at the front of the store to buy her food.

Police said surveillance video shows Smith leading the 8-year-old out of the store and driving away in his van.

Cherish's body was found less than a day later in a marshy area near the Trout River. A woman reported seeing Smith's van, the subject of an Amber Alert, near where Cherish's body was discovered.

Prosecutors said Cherish was raped and killed.