In minutes, jury convicts Florida man of girl's murder, rape
A photo of 8-year-old victim Cherish Perrywinkle. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)
Jason Dearen, The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, February 14, 2018 12:03PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 14, 2018 12:21PM EST
It took less than 15 minutes Wednesday for a Florida jury to convict a 61-year-old man of abducting, raping and murdering an 8-year-old girl.
The Jacksonville courtroom had just gone into recess after the judge read instructions to the jurors when everyone quickly returned. A decision was in: unanimous guilty verdicts against Donald Smith in the crimes against 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle.
The white-haired Smith, wearing a yellow shirt and plaid tie, watched without expression as the jury foreman quickly read the verdicts.
Cherish was abducted from a Walmart in 2013 after Smith persuaded her mother that he would buy the poor family some clothes with a gift card. Smith had introduced himself as a good Samaritan to the mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, at a discount store earlier in the day, saying his wife would meet them at the Walmart and bring the card.
The wife never showed, and Smith instead lured Cherish away from her mother and two sisters as they shopped. Surveillance footage showed the girl following Smith out of the store and getting into his white van.
"To the untrained eye he looks like Uncle Joe who is shopping with Rayne and the kids," prosecutor Mark Caliel said during his closing argument Wednesday morning.
"He made her feel safe through his lies and deception," Caliel said. "And then he preyed upon her. He drove her out of that parking lot of the Walmart to where no eyes could see and no ears could hear."
Cherish's body was found in a Jacksonville creek, and when police arrested Smith his pants were wet. Also, police say his DNA was found all over her body.
The jury was ordered to return to court Tuesday to begin the penalty phase of the trial. Smith faces a possible death sentence. He was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual battery on a child less than 12 years of age.