3 JSO officers honored in Cherish Perrywinkle case

By Ashley Mitchem - Reporter, anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Three Jacksonville police officers were honored Thursday for their work in the Cherish Perrywinkle investigation.

The 8-year-old girl was abducted June 21 from a Walmart store. Her body was found hours later and an arrest was made.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office admitted after an internal investigation mistakes were made in how some personnel handled the case, but some officers did solid police work in their efforts to try to find the girl.

The sheriff recognized three officers for their investigative work in the case at this month's Meritorious Awards Ceremony.

One of those honored was K-9 Officer Charlie Wilkie, who, with the help of Gator, found Cherish's body minutes after the arrest of Donald Smith.

Wilkie spoke about how his K-9 helps him in many cases.

"They are extremely helpful. They can do the work of seven or eight officers," he said. "The dogs' noses are so sensitive, they can smell up to 63-square-feet from where they stand."

A citizen, Brenda Fillingim, was also honored. She called in a tip that led police to that area.

"Citizens can help us really drive down crime in our community, solve as in this case, a very major case," Sheriff John Rutherford said.

Two officers also received lifesaving awards for separate incidents where their efforts directly resulted in saving a life. One of them was Officer Thomas Edwards (pictured), who's been with the Sheriff's Office for 25 years.

"Very surreal," he said. "I told Mr. (David) Cutliff that I was the tool, that God put me in that spot and he had something else to accomplish on this Earth before he left."

Edwards saved Cutliff's life by performing CPR. Cutliff (pictured with Edwards) was also at the ceremony.

"I had to thank him for about eight broken ribs as well," Cutliff said.

There were many other awards given out at the ceremony. The sheriff said he hopes by rewarding officers that others around them will work hard for recognition as well.

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