Jacksonville, FL – The body of Cherish Perrywinkle, the 8-year-old abducted from a Jacksonville Walmart, was discovered near a church in Jacksonville, Fla. Saturday morning. Donald James Smith, a registered sex offender recently released from prison, has been arrested and charged with her murder.
The girl’s mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, said she and her three children met Smith Friday evening at a dollar store. She says Smith overheard her saying she couldn’t afford to buy her daughter a dress, and offered to help her out using his wife’s Walmart gift card.
She said that at first she thought Smith was “creepy and annoying,” but seemed like he truly wanted to help her and her family. “Part of me wanted to believe this was a blessing for my children,” Perrywinkle said. She may have wanted to trust that initial gut instinct, as Smith is described as “a man with a very extensive criminal history.” He was previously convicted of attempted kidnapping and lewd and lascivious assault on children and just released from custody on May 31.
But for whatever reason, Perrywinkle got in Smith’s van with her children and headed to the Walmart. Once inside, Smith said they would have to wait for his wife to get there with the gift card. After waiting for a couple of hours, Smith said he was heading to the McDonald’s located inside the store. Initial reports stated Perrywinkle let Cherish accompany Smith to the McDonald’s, but she later told reporters that was not the case.
“He asked if I wanted anything and I heard Cherish say ‘cheeseburger.’ I thought she stayed near me. I didn’t realize she went with him. I didn’t let her go with him like people think,” Perrywinkle stated. Unfortunately, Smith did not take Cherish to the McDonald’s.
“As he walked to the front of the store, he took our 8-year-old victim with him. They walked to the front of the Walmart toward the McDonald’s. They did not stop at the McDonald’s. They walked outside, got in his van and left the location,” said Michael Williams, director of the sheriff’s investigations department.
Once Perrywinkle realized her daughter was missing, she notified police. An Amber Alert was issued, and police would track down Smith’s van driving on I-95 in Jacksonville at around 9 a.m. Saturday. Police have not said whether or not Smith led them to the Cherish’s body.
Donald Smith was charged Saturday with murder and kidnapping. On Sunday, a judge ordered him held without bail.