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U.S. Supreme Court turns down appeal in murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle

Cherish Perrywinkle, left, and Donald Smith.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up an appeal in a high-profile case involving an 8-year-old Jacksonville girl who was abducted from a Walmart and raped and murdered.

Death row inmate Donald James Smith took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court last year after the Florida Supreme Court unanimously upheld his conviction and sentence in the 2013 murder of Cherish Perrywinkle.

An attorney for Smith asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case because of alleged improper arguments by a prosecutor during Smith’s trial. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the request last week. As is common, justice did not explain their reasons.

The murder drew huge amounts of news coverage and public attention in Jacksonville, with a jury in 2018 finding Smith guilty and a judge sending him to death row. Smith, now 65, is an inmate at Union Correctional Institution, according to the Florida Department of Corrections website.

Smith was accused of murdering Cherish Perrywinkle after a series of events that began when he met her mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, at a Dollar General store. Smith told Rayne Perrywinkle that he would take her and her daughters shopping at a Walmart.

While at Walmart, Smith said he would buy the family cheeseburgers at a McDonald’s at the store but left with Cherish Perrywinkle in a van. He was convicted of raping and strangling the child and leaving her body in a creek.

Smith was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping of a victim under age 13 and sexual battery on a victim under age 12. In addition to the death sentence for the murder, he received life sentences on the kidnapping and sexual battery charges.

Jim Saunders is the Executive Editor of The News Service Of Florida.