JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Nearly 2,000 people attended a viewing for Cherish Perrywinkle on Thursday at Paxon Revival Center Church on Jacksonville's Westside.
The Perrywinkle family are not members of the church, but Action News has learned the young girl visited at least one Sunday a month with the family of a neighborhood friend.
Perrywinkle's mother welcomed the public to the service, to allow them a time to grive and show support for the family. The 8-year-old's abduction and murder has gripped the community since her disappearance late Friday night, and the discovery of her body in a wooded lot behind a northwest Jacksonville church Saturday morning.
Danielle McNair has never met the Perrywinkle family, but said she came to the service to help her own 8-year-old son try to understand what happened to the little girl. McNair hopes Cherish's story could save the life of another child.
"I just want them to understand that just because someone is nice to you doesn't mean they have good intentions."
Pastor Steve Dobbs says Cherish's mother, Rayne, has shared with him the anger that she has at herself for what happened to her daughter.
Police documents show Rayne reported that she met accused killer Donald James Smith at the Dollar General store on Edgewood Avenue Friday evening, and that he gave Rayne and her children a ride to the Walmart on Lem Turner. Police say Smith offered to buy new clothes for Rayne and Cherish because he could see they were in need.
Rayne Perrywinkle told police Smith took Cherish into a dressing room twice, and expressed interest in buying the girl high heels. Smith later went to the McDonald's inside Walmart, and Rayne tells police her daughter followed. She reported her daughter missing to police 30 minutes later.
Dobbs tells Action News that Rayne has "beaten herself up" over the incident.
"Mama's angry at herself and mama told me, 'I don't care what the community says. There's nothing that anybody says that hurts me anymore than I've hurt myself. I made a mistake and it cost the life of my daughter. I've done something that was crazy, and it cost me the life of my daughter. I love my daughter.'"
Despite the scrutiny, Dobbs says Perrywinkle believes her daughter's story can help the life of another child.
"It happens to the rich. It happens to the poor. It happens to the famous. It happens to the non-famous. Mama let her guard down and we can't let our guard down in this society. We have to watch over our children."
Parent Legarall Bates got that message, and brought her daughter to Thursday's service to make her a promise.
"I wanted to show her how much I appreciate her and that I'm always going to protect her as much as I can, love her and guide her."
Cherish's funeral will be held at the Paxon Revivial Center Church on Friday at 2 p.m. Action News will have respectful live coverage on CBS 47 and FOX 30, as well as a live stream at ActionNewsJax.com.