Donald Smith made Cherish Perrywinkle's dad believe in monsters

Attorney reads victim impact statement from murdered 8-year-old's father

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Cherish Perrywinkle's father said his little girl made him believe in angels.

But it was Donald Smith who made him believe in monsters.

Smith, 61, kidnapped, raped and strangled 8-year-old Cherish in June 2013. A jury unanimously recommended Smith be sentenced to death for those crimes.

In a hearing Wednesday that was also Smith's last chance to convince Circuit Judge Mallory Cooper to spare his life, the court heard victim impact statements from Cherish's parents: Rayne Perrywinkle and Billy Jarreau.

Jarreau, who lives in California, couldn't attend Wednesday's hearing in Jacksonville, so his statement was read by his attorney, Gerald Wilkerson.

READ: Billy Jarreau victim impact statement
WATCH: Rayne Perrywinkle's victim impact statement

In his statement, Jarreau described Cherish as “sweet, kind, funny and pure love.”

“She had so much potential. And the little time that I had with her on this earth was precious to me,” he wrote. “Cherish was a light in my life and in the lives of so many people, and Donald Smith took that light out of this world.”

Jarreau said writing his statement was difficult, but he he pushed through his emotions because “this is the last thing I can and must do for my child.”

Jarreau, a retired Navy sailor, had fought to be in Cherish's life after a DNA test proved he was her father, and as part of the custody agreement with Rayne, Cherish was supposed to fly out to spend the summer of 2013 with Jarreau.

WATCH: Cherish's father reacts to verdict

The night before Cherish's flight, her family met Smith, who saw Rayne struggling to buy clothes for her three daughters at a Dollar General. He offered to take her to Walmart and spend a $100 gift card on clothes for the girls.

But there was no gift card. 

Rayne later said Smith's charisma sold the ruse, and as she was still shopping for the children, Smith offered to get the family cheeseburgers. Cherish went with him

The little girl's tortured body was found the next day in a wooded area behind a Northside church.

RELATED: Cherish Perrywinkle's mother confronts 8-year-old's killer in court

In his statement, Jarreau described the horror of waking up that day excited to pick up his daughter from the airport only to learn instead that she had been murdered by a pedophile.

“It all ended far too soon, and my hopes and dreams for Cherish and our special relationship was smashed on June 22, 2013,” he said. “In that moment, all of the dreams of our planned summer and every summer to come, every day, every moment, were destroyed -- taken from me by the actions of Donald Smith.”

Jarreau said he has nightmares about how Cherish died.

UNCUT: Medical examiner's entire testimony (Caution: Contains graphic details) |
RELATED: Juror will never forget what Cherish Perrywinkle 'had to endure'

“How horrible those last minutes must have been for her. How she must have called out for help, and this feeling that I wasn't able to help her,” Jarreau said. “Forever the images of my child's last minutes on this earth will play out in my mind like a private internal hell that never ends.”

He said he holds onto the good memories he has of Cherish, but knows that he can't make any more. 

“Cherish isn't here to speak for herself. She will never again be able to speak or laugh or dream, and as her parent I will never hear her voice or know her thoughts or see her grow,” Jarreau said. “Donald Smith took that from her, and he took that from me and all of us.”

If she'd never met Smith, Cherish would now be 13 years old.

Jarreau previously told News4Jax that he wants Smith sentenced to death for killing Cherish.

“I never really believed in monsters,” he wrote to the court. “I do now.”


About the Authors:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.

Veteran journalist and Emmy Award winning anchor