• Judge: 'May God have mercy on your soul,' Donald Smith sentenced to death

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    Convicted killer Donald Smith was sentenced to death by the judge Wednesday for the 2013 murder of Cherish Perrywinkle.

    "Donald James Smith, may God have mercy on your soul," Judge Mallory Cooper said as she sentenced him.

    The jury took 14 minutes to find Smith guilty of kidnap, rape and murder of the 8-year-old in February. Smith had little reaction as the guilty verdict was read to him.


    STORY: Jury finds Smith guilty of murder, kidnapping and sexual battery in Cherish Perrywinkle case


    The death penalty was recommended to the judge by the jurors on February 22, after a little over two hours of deliberation. 

    Smith has a criminal history as a registered sexual offender. His mother, Patricia Moore said her son was first arrested in 1977 for exposing himself to children, but she thought it was a misunderstanding. He was then arrested for sex-related offenses in the '80s and '90s.

    Smith was also charged in 2003 with pretending to be a Florida Department of Children and Families worker and calling a 9-year-old girl, asking her sexual questions and threatening her family.

    Cherish was kidnapped from a Northside Walmart and killed by Smith, authorities said.

    In 2013, JSO admitted their officers made mistakes as they doubted Cherish's mother Rayne Perrywinkle'sstory and said she acted strangely.

    VIDEO: Cherish's mother Rayne Perrywinkle reacts to Smith receiving death penalty

    Juror Paul Hinson got a hug and a ‘thank you’ from Rayne Perrywinkle after the sentencing Wednesday in the Duval County Courthouse lobby.

    Hinson is one of the jurors who unanimously recommended the death sentence for Smith. He attended court proceedings after the trial to see that justice was done to Smith.

    “It is not going to be officially over until he’s put to death, but that’s whenever they decide to do that. That’s when it’s going to be,” Hinson said. 

    Action News Jax law and safety Expert Dale Carson said it could take years before Smith is executed. He said that’s how long the appeals process could take, and evidence such as the child’s autopsy photos could play a role along with other factors.

    “That is one of the appeals that will happen, and others related to the types of information developed during the trial,”Carson said. “Objections, the court’s sustained objections, all of them work together to create great fodder for the appellate system.”

    Carson said Smith will now go to Baker County for a medical evaluation before going to prison to await execution.

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