JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A wound that will never completely heal has reopened again for the mother of a young girl who was brutally murdered, with the release of new evidence that reveals a chilling jailhouse confession from her daughter’s killer.
Rayne Perrywinkle, 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle’s mother, said Donald Smith has nearly destroyed her life, and talking about him only makes things worse. She hopes to keep the public’s focus away from Smith, saying he enjoys the attention.
“This is all about him,” she said. “It’s about Cherish. It’s not about him.”
Last year, Smith was found guilty of murdering, kidnapping and sexually assaulting Cherish in June 2013. Rayne Perrywinkle recalls the day she saw Smith with a smirk on his face his murder trial.
“I was trying to keep it together,” she said. “I had seen him so many times before that day. I saw his true character in the trial. He wouldn't stop smiling and smirking at people. He thought it was funny.”
There were warning signs, 10 years before he killed Cherish, that Smith would hurt a child. James Vallely, a licensed psychologist who evaluated Smith, said in a letter that was written May 23, 2002 and sent to Ernst Bell, an assistant state attorney:
“I am writing to express grave concerns about Mr. Donald Smith, who is attending my psycho-sexual treatment program.”
Vallely wrote that “Smith stopped cooperating by the second and third session.” Smith also “complained the program was too long,” and he wanted “permission to see his children sooner.”
The psychologist warned that Smith’s behavior was “terribly troublesome and dangerous.”
Rayne Perrywinkle believes Smith knew exactly what he was doing when he took her daughter.
“He was hell-bent on taking a child that night because he had seen us, followed us to the store, waited for us,” she said. “He knew my pattern, he knew where I walked every day.”
Rayne Perrywinkle is slowly healing. She knows life will never be the same, and although her daughter’s killer is on death row, she says it’s harder knowing Smith is still alive.
“He's a part of history now,” she said. “It’s all about him. He wanted this about him, and if he didn't take my daughter away, he would’ve taken someone else.”