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Sex offender charged with murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle

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Updated: 6/24/2013 12:23 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A sex offender who police say took a mother and her children to Walmart is now charged with the little girl's murder.

Police found the body of Cherish Perrywinkle, 8, near a church along Broward Road.

The little girl was abducted from a Walmart on Lem Turner around 11 p.m. on Friday.

Special coverage: Remembering Cherish]

Police arrested a suspect in her abduction, 56-year-old Donald Smith.  Authorities pulled over his van along SB I-95 near the I-10 split, just after 9 a.m. on Saturday.

Police wouldn't say whether Smith led police to her body.

Director Mike Williams said the girl's mother met Smith at a Dollar General store earlier that night. Smith promised to take them to Walmart to buy clothes.

While shopping, police said Smith offered to buy some food but instead of going to the McDonald's, Smith left the store with Cherish. The two took off in his van.

Police said a deputy working a traffic crash along I-95 spotted Smith's white van drive by. She wrote down the license plate number.

Authorities responded to the scene. Police closed I-95 and shut down all the exits.

They pulled over Smith's van on I-95 near the I-10 split.  Police say he complied to the traffic stop.  Charish was not in the van.

[Related story: Highway takedown of Amber Alert murder suspect caught on camera]

A short time later, police received a tip about a suspicious van driving around the 2100 block of  Broward Road.

K-9 units searched the woods and found her body.

The sad turn of developments hit JSO hard. "Pay attention to your surroundings, pay attention to who you meet," said Director Williams.

JSO spokesman Shannon Hartley said, "It's hard. It's difficult. They are not just police officers. They're parents, brothers, sisters. It's hard."

"Hug your children closely right now, and know where they're at.  Pay attention to them and keep them close," said JSO spokesman Shannon Hartley, who fought to hold back tears.  "We're gonna find him and have him held accountable for that," he added.

Minutes after the discovery, police arrived at Smith's home in San Jose on Segovia Avenue where he lived with his mother. A few hours later, a woman, believed to be his mother, was led away by police.

"This has been an extremely dynamic situation. Obviously we have the unfortunate answer that we didn't want to have, so a portion of our investigation is complete," said Hartley. "We have a long way to go in this investigation."

Neighbors say Smith worked as a painter, and that he just got out of jail three weeks ago.

The investigation began around 11 p.m. at the Walmart at 12100 Lem Turner Road.  Police received a report of a young girl being taken away from the store by an unknown male in a white van. The abductor fled south on Lem Turner Road.

Police activated its Child Abduction Response Team, or CART. Multiple agencies got involved, and the FDLE issued an Amber Alert early Saturday morning.

Authorities searched area motels, and the homes of sex offenders and sex predators.

The victim's mother picked Donald J. Smith from a series of photos of possible suspects as the man who took her daughter. Police later learned Smith had not been home since 7 a.m. on Friday and drove a white Dodge van similar to the one sought by police.

"This is a transition from abduction investigation to a murder investigation," said Hartley. "We have the support of the entire state of Florida and the agencies surrounded us. JFRD, FDLE, you name. The beaches all have been good assistance to us."

Cherish attended Chaffee Trail Elementary School, according to Duval County Schools spokeswoman Marsha Oliver.

Stay with Action News for the latest developments on this breaking news story.  For Breaking News on the go, download the Action News Mobile App.

59 Comment(s)
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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Action News Jacksonville

paste - 6/29/2013 12:19 AM
0 Votes
That stupid woman killed her child by just handing her daughter right over to him. He was walking away and thinking what kind of mother would do such a thing, so if she didn't care, why should I. That mother should also be thrown into jail with him, since she thought so highly of him.

kallen1046 - 6/26/2013 4:29 PM
0 Votes
I just want to remind people that even a castrated male can still be a sexual offender. that does not necessarily stop them. He will be protected in prison. he won't be in any danger. right now he is stating that he did not do it!! Can you believe that!! they police are desperately seeking a double stroller that was in the van. Cherishes mother left it in smith's van. believe it or not, they actually rode in his van from dollar general to walmart!! So anyway, if anyone finds a stroller such as this please call police immediately. don't touch it as it is very important evidence. God Bless the siblings of Cherish. We love you here in Jacksonville. <3

Stumpy - 6/26/2013 1:23 AM
0 Votes
Macann, after reading your post I have no doubt that you thought the little girl's Mom was being the best Mom she could be. Its just that some people are simply not cut out to be parents. Often they are too young or simply refuse to believe that it could be their child that gets taken. They become far to trusting of any honest face, but then, just what is a sex offender supposed to look like to begin with? And what is with the racist comment? Its 2013 and you have to come in here acting like a reject from the fifties. Those days are long past. They're over with and our generation simply won't stand for this racist crap any longer. So please, either get with the rest of us or spew your hatred elsewhere.

Stumpy - 6/26/2013 1:10 AM
0 Votes
I feel very sad for the murdered little girl. While I agree that the mother was negligent in the care of her child, I seriously doubt her skin color had anything to do with it as one person who posted in here would lead you to believe. I think the racist need to find their kicks elsewhere. As for Mr. Smith, who was just released from jail 21 days prior, I also doubt he was on the radar of the police as they would lead you to believe. Because if that had been the case, then they would have found a way to keep a much better watch on him considering that he had not even been out of jail for a month when this murder took place. But the real blame goes to our legal system which consistently puts monsters like this man back out on the streets after multiple arrest. We need a three strikes law like that in California to clean up our streets once and for all. And frankly, anyone who is found to be guilty of being a sex offender to any child who has not reached maturity should not only be castrated, but should be given the option to stay in jail or have "I'M A SEX OFFENDER" tatooed across their forehead, giving the rest of us a heads up when they attempt to go near our most precious asset, our children.

Curious - 6/24/2013 6:28 PM
1 Vote
Will the mother of Cherish Perrywinkle be arrested for child endangerment? If not, is it because she is white, as the writer below implies? Are there comparable cases in which a black parent was arrested?

John E - 6/24/2013 6:15 PM
1 Vote
Change the law to include mandatory castration within 30 days of a guilty verdict involving molestation of a child without any opportunity to appeal. If that doesn't cause them to keep it in their pants, at least after that there won't be the urge to assault any more innocent children!

M1A MA9101 - 6/24/2013 5:10 PM
2 Votes
A dead child molester will molest no more, a dead murderer will kill no more, a dead sex offender will offend no more. We as a society must put away this kind of evil from among us or this will never stop. Till then; live with it as you have no other choice

nativejax - 6/23/2013 4:58 PM
1 Vote
FL Cracker, you ALSO sound idiotic..This is absolutely horrendous. Even if THIS mom(or any mom) was slack at her parenting when her daughter followed this monster to McDonalds within the Walmart...We SHOULD NEVER HAVE TO TELL OUR CHILDREN DAILY THERE ARE MONSTERS OUT HERE THAT WILL TORTURE AND KILL THEM. The system is still failing our children, why? Because of prison overcrowding? What a sorry excuse, to say our children's life's are LESS important than a habitual drug user who spends decades behind bars. These murderous monsters cannot stop preying on innocent children, the laws are failing them. God is still watching and WAITING for our legal system to WAKE UP.

freebie - 6/23/2013 3:13 PM
2 Votes
Ms. Perrywinkle we are so sorry for your loss, and we pray for you and your lovely family. As far as Donald Smith: What is the difference between a sexual offender and sexual predator? Both are the same, a predator is an offender, an offender is a predator, it's a bunch of double talk. The judicial system has failed once again by permitting this maniac to walk the streets after committing heinous acts against innocent children since 1977. All the prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, politicians etc, should be hanging their heads in shame. You are all the reason why poor little Cherish isn't with her family today. SHAME ON YOU ALL!

FLCracker92 - 6/23/2013 12:37 PM
3 Votes
Can't believe the amount of idiots on here that think the mother has no culpability... Hmmm... let's run through this one more time based on the story as it is currently being reported...Mom just met this guy 4 hours prior... knows nothing about him but he seems nice..he offered to buy her ALLOWS her 8 year old to walk out of her sight, clear to the other side of a store with this man that she has only known for about 4 hours...what could possibly go wrong... If those are the actions of a good parent, no matter how dire the financial situation is, I will kiss your behind. Quit making excuses for this woman, her negligence led to this child's death...sure she is devastated and rightfully so... I don't think I could live with my self if I had let my own stupidity result in the death of my child....SMH.
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