Cherish Perrywinkle's mother says Donald Smith got what he deserved

Rayne Perrywinkle says jury recommendation for death penalty is justice

By Vic Micolucci - I-TEAM reporter, anchor, Francine Frazier - Senior web producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The mother of a slain 8-year-old Jacksonville girl sobbed Thursday as she learned that a jury had recommended death for the man who raped and strangled her daughter.

Donald Smith was convicted of kidnapping, sexual battery and first-degree murder in the June 2013 death of Cherish Perrywinkle. Judge Mallory Cooper will now decide whether to follow the jury's recommendation and sentence Smith to death.

Cherish's mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, said that's the only punishment fitting for Smith, whom she called “a demon.” She said she was grateful to the jurors and the prosecutors for giving her little girl justice.

“He has destroyed a lot of lives,” Perrywinkle said. “And now he gets to pay the consequences for what he has done. He made the choice. He alone.”

Perrywinkle said she wants to meet with Smith face-to-face so that he can look her in the eyes as she tells him how much pain he put her and her family through. 

She said she knew what was done to her daughter was unthinkable, but she said the truth -- described in graphic detail by the medical examiner last week -- was worse than she could have imagined.

UNCUT: Medical examiner's entire testimony (Caution: Contains graphic details)

Perrywinkle wasn't in the courtroom during that emotional testimony, but she said she watched it from another room nearby.

“I listened to all the details. It tore me apart. I was screaming. I was on the floor, screaming,” Perrywinkle said. “He needs to be put to death, and he got exactly what he deserved today.”

Perrywinkle confronted Smith last week as the first witness called by the prosecution. She recounted how he had charmed her at a Dollar General after seeing her struggling to buy clothes for her daughters.

UNCUT: Rayne Perrywinkle's testimony
IMAGES: Testimony, evidence in Donald Smith trial

She said he was charismatic and offered to help her with a Walmart gift card, saying his wife had it and would meet them at the store.

Not knowing there was no wife and no gift card, Perrywinkle pushed aside her hesitations and piled Cherish and her other daughters into Smith's van.

“I regret getting into the van. I do. I regret that all the time. But it wasn’t about the van,” Perrywinkle said Thursday. “It was the fact that he pretended he was a Christian. He pretended that he had little children. He looked like a generous grandfather. He pretended he went to church. There were all these factors.”

She said looking back now, she realizes her daughter was being hunted by a pedophile.

“It was a process,” she said. “I didn’t walk up to him and ask him for money or food or anything. He approached us.”

After the family shopped at Walmart until the store was almost ready to close, Smith offered to get them cheeseburgers. Perrywinkle thought Smith was going to the McDonald's at the front of the store, so when Cherish went with him, she didn't stop her.

It was the last time she saw her daughter alive.

Perrywinkle said she wants to make sure that horror doesn't happen to another mother.

“I want to reach out to the legislators and have laws changed where children can be safer on the streets,” she said. “I see too many children walking to school by themselves. Too many children in the stores by themselves. It’s just a matter of time before another nightmare can happen.”

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