Emotions high as grisly details surrounding 2013 slaying of Florida girl, 8, revealed during trial
A medical examiner fought back tears today as the graphic details surrounding the rape and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle were presented in a Florida courtroom.
"I'm sorry," Dr. Valerie Rao said during the second day of trial. "I have to take a break. Can I just have, like, five minutes?"
Donald Smith, 61, is accused of killing Cherish Perrywinkle after befriending the family in a store. He has pleaded not guilty and faces a possible death sentence if he is convicted.
During today's trial, many jurors were overcome with emotion as the court was shown autopsy photos.
On Monday, Rayne Perrywinkle, the 8-year-old's mother, was the first of 12 witnesses called to the stand.
Smith of Jacksonville, Florida, is charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual battery in Cherish Perrywinkle's death.
In June 2013, Cherish Perrywinkle was with her mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, and her two sisters, as the family shopped at a Dollar General.
Rayne Perrywinkle said she was approached by Smith who, she says, offered to help them buy clothes at a nearby Walmart. She said she and her daughters got into his van and rode with him to the store.
"He looked into my face and told me I was safe," she said on the stand Monday.
When the girls started getting hungry, Rayne Perrywinkle said Smith offered to get them food at the McDonald's inside Walmart. Video surveillance showed he and Cherish Perrywinkle walking out of the Walmart.
Rayne Perrywinkle said she could not find Cherish Perrywinkle in the store. Rayne Perrywinkle, who did not have a working cellphone, said she started calling around the store for help.
"I was yelling, 'Call 911. My daughter's been taken.' And no one wouldn't, no one would help me right away," she said on the stand Monday.
In her 911 call, Rayne Perrywinkle could be heard saying, "He knew when the store was closing. I had a bad feeling about him. I don't want him to kill her. I don't want to be one of those parents that, who go through this. ... He wanted her to buy these really tall shoes that were women's shoes and I told him, 'No.' I said, 'They’re too high for her. I wouldn't even wear shoes that high.' Maybe he was grooming her. I hope to God he doesn't kill her and I hope to God he doesn't rape her."
She said the last time that she saw Cherish Perrywinkle was as the 8-year-old followed Smith toward the McDonald's.
Smith was arrested the next morning. Cherish Perrywinkle's body was found that same day in a creek. She'd been raped and smothered and had blunt force trauma to the back of her head.
Smith is a registered sex offender and had only been out of prison for less than a month. The state reportedly wrapped up its case today and the defense did not call any witnesses.
Closing arguments were expected Wednesday.