Cherish Perrywinkle

Cherish Perrywinkle (left) and Donald Smith (right)
News4Jax

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously upheld the conviction and death sentence of Donald James Smith, who raped and murdered 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinklle after kidnapping the girl from a Jacksonville Walmart in 2013.

Donald Smith
Will Dickey / The Florida Times-Union

More than seven years after an 8-year-old girl was abducted from a Jacksonville Walmart, raped and murdered, the Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments this week about whether a man sentenced to death in the slaying should receive a new trial.

Jury Selection In Donald Smith Trial For Cherish Perrywinkle's Murder Begins

Feb 5, 2018
News4Jax

The trial for Donald Smith, the 61-year-old man who is charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual battery in the death of an 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle, begins Monday.

Lawyers for accused Jacksonville child murderer Donald Smith are trying to block the death penalty in his case in light of Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling.

The high court struck down Florida’s death sentencing procedure.


Jacksonville Sheriff's Office

The trial of the man accused of murdering 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle has been set for early April.

Donald Smith is accused of kidnapping Perrywinkle from a Walmart on the city’s Northside two years ago.

Smith is also charged with rape and murder.


A judge postponed the trial of Donald Smith, the man charged with raping and murdering 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle, at a pretrial hearing Wednesday. Our news partner News4Jax has the full report.

Kevin Daniels, Rayne Perrywinkle and climate change are in the headlines today.

Steve Roberts, Cherish Perrywinkle, and Johnny Manziel are in the headlines today.

Internet cafes, Angela Corey, and Jameis Winston are in the headlines today.

News4Jax

Florida lawmakers want to toughen the state’s sexual predator laws and they’ve said the reforms will be the centerpiece of this year’s legislative session.

Michael Dunn, Pop Tarts, and lethal injection are in the headlines today.

Jameis Winston, Cherish Perrywinkle, and Nelson Mandela are in the headlines today.

Jordan Davis, Aundra Wallace, and Jameis Winston are in the headlines today.

Welcome to WJCT First Read, your daily weekday morning round-up of stories from the First Coast, around Florida, and across the country. We'll also preview some of WJCT's upcoming news programming.

Alvin Brown, Rayne Perrywinkle, and Rick Scott are in the headlines today.

The Mathews Bridge is open, new documents in Cherish Perrywinkle case, and medical marijuana are in the headlines today.

Jacksonville faces criticism over St. Johns algae, Cherish Perrywinkle among victims to be honored tonight, and a South Florida police department's decision to stop selling cocaine are in the headlines today.

Welcome to WJCT First Read (T.G.I.F. edition), your daily weekday morning round-up of stories from the First Coast, around Florida, and across the country. We'll also preview some of WJCT's upcoming news programming.

Karen Feagins / WJCT

At a hearing Wednesday afternoon at Jacksonville City Hall, state legislators, law enforcement officials and mental health professionals discussed what new legislation might protect children from sexual offenders and predators. 

Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, called the hearing following the June abduction and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle.

The man accused of Perrywinkle's murder is a repeat sex offender who had been released from jail only about a month before her death.

A legislative hearing is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon at Jacksonville City Hall on state laws related to sex offenders. The hearing is open to the public and experts, including officials representing state law enforcement and child services agencies, will be in attendance.

The meeting comes only a few months after the abduction, sexual assault, and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle in Jacksonville. 

Prosecutors say Donald James Smith, a 56-year-old sex offender who had been released from jail only about a month before he allegedly killed Perrywinkle, has a long history of preying on young girls.  

Smith pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, sexual battery and murder. In July, State Attorney Angela Corey said she would seek the death penalty in the case.

Tomorrow's hearing is sponsored by Florida State Representative Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, and it comes as an online petition to enact "Cherish's Law" has garnered over 2,200 signatures.

The petition was created by a group called "Justice For Cherish" formed, according to their Facebook page, in August.

While the group's Facebook page and petition site offer few details on what changes they would propose, they do appear to advocate longer prison sentences for repeat sexual offenders.

"How many more children do we have to lose before you keep the repeat offenders locked up for the rest of their lives?" the petition asks. "The only reform for a repeat predator is life."

What new laws or changes to existing laws would you propose to prevent sexual assault? Tell us on our Facebook page or on Twitter @WJCTJax.

Welcome to WJCT First Read, your daily weekday morning round-up of stories from the First Coast, around Florida, and across the country.

News 4 Jax

News 4 Jax is reporting that Donald James Smith, the man charged with the kidnapping, sexual battery and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle last month, has entered a not guilty plea to the charges at a hearing Tuesday morning.

The State Attorney's Office has announced that it will be seeking the death penalty against Smith. The 56-year-old is a registered sex offender who had been released from jail a only month before Cherish was kidnapped and killed.

Cyd Hoskinson / WJCT

State Attorney Angela Corey says she will seek the death penalty against Donald Smith in the Cherish Perrywinkle case.

Smith is accused of kidnapping 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle from an area Walmart where he was shopping with her family. Her body was found the next morning. She had been strangled.

Corey announced this morning that a grand jury had indicted the 56 year old Smith on 3 counts.

“Murder in the first degree, and then capital sexual battery and kidnapping of a child. The sexual battery alone is a capital offense,” said Corey.

Kevin Meerschaert

About 250 people gathered at Paxton Revival Center Church on Friday for the funeral  of 8-year-old Cherish Lily Perrywinkle.

Cherish was remembered as a girl who loved her family, friends and her church.

During an emotional eulogy, pastor Steve Dobbs talked about the pain the family and community is feeling, and the need to stick together and not cast blame on Cherish's mother, Rayne.

Cyd Hoskinson

A steady stream of mourners filed past Cherish Perrywinkle’s open casket at Paxon Revival Center Church on Jacksonville’s Westside on Thursday.

Some, like school bus driver Nancy Watson, sat in the church for a while, reflecting on their time with Cherish.

“She rode my bus. Very sweet, quiet child. Always well mannered, well dressed," she said. "She’ll always, always be in our hearts.”

 

Cherish was kidnapped while shopping with her family last Friday night. Her body was found the next morning.

 

JSO

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is seeking the public’s help in finding a baby stroller that is evidence in the kidnapping and murder of Cherish Perrywinkle.

Director of Investigations Annie Smith says the stroller was placed in the van of suspect Donald Smith by Cherish’s mother when they drove to Wal-Mart but the it was missing when he was arrested.

Annie Smith wouldn’t elaborate why the stroller is important to the investigation. She says it is a needed piece of evidence.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has released this account of the night Cherish Perrywinkle, 8, was abducted from the Walmart on Lem Turner Road.

11:18pm:  Call received by dispatch from victim’s mother advising her daughter was taken from the Wal-Mart at 12100 Lem Turner Rd

11:20pm:  Call is dispatched to patrol officers

11:28:  First two officers arrive on the scene

11:36:  Officers broadcast a BOLO (be on the lookout) for the victim and suspect vehicle

11:41:  Air Unit is requested

Karen Feagins

Highlands Baptist Church has become a gathering place for a community in mourning. The sidewalk outside is covered with stuffed animals, balloons, and handwritten notes left as a memorial for Cherish Perrywinkle.

 

The 8-year-old's body was found near the church Saturday morning after she was abducted from the Walmart on Lem Turner Drive the night before.

 

Sunday night the pews of the church were filled as pastor Art Taylor told the crowd Cherish had gone from tragedy to triumph in Heaven.