• Prosecutors say Cherish Perrywinkle died 'brutal and tortured death'

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    SYNOPSIS: State Attorney Melissa Nelson immediately painted a grim and emotional picture of what she says the jury will see and hear in the coming days in their case against Donald Smith. 

    She says the Medical Examiner will testify to “myriad injuries” suffered by Cherish, including that she was strangled, forcefully raped and sodomized, and suffered blunt force trauma to the back of her head, among other things. 

    “Cherish did not die quickly, and she did not die easily. In fact, hers was a brutal and tortured death,” Nelson says. 

    Nelson told jurors that she expects they will be “changed” by the end of this trial, and that the evidence and testimony will be often difficult to hear. It was that emotional tone that the defense immediately seized on in their opening. 

    2:30 p.m.: The jury is watching surveillance video that appears to show Donald Smith and Cherish Perrywinkle in the shoe section at Walmart. Cherish's mom testified Smith wanted Cherish to try on women's heels.

    A fifth witness, Christopher Rozier, is now taking the stand. He was shopping at Walmart the night Cherish disappeared. 

    Rozier testifies that Smith pulled up next to his car in Walmart parking lot and said, "We're going to get cheeseburgers." Rozier said "I have no idea" why Smith would pull up and tell him that. 

    Rozier testified he followed Smith's van because he thought his father-in-law, whom he was trying to meet at Walmart, might be in the van. He said he had no idea anything was wrong until JSO later showed up at his home. 

     

    12:42 p.m.: Former Walmart security employee Samantha Bray takes the stand to testify about surveillance video from the night Cherish PerryWinkle left the store with a man who appears to be Donald Smith. 

     

    12:20 p.m.: Trial resumes with second witness, Brad Clahoun, the assistant store manager of the Dollar General where Donald Smith met the Perrywinkle family takes the stand.

    11:10 a.m.: Donald Smith old judge he does not want Rayne Perrywinkle to be cross-examined by his attorney because he said he doesn't want her to have to go through it. Trial is in recess until 12:20 p.m.

     10:10 a.m.: Rayne Perrywinkle called to witness stand to testify about abduction, rape and murder of her 8-year-old daughter in 2013 after defense's opening statement. 

    10:05 a.m: Attorney Julie Schlax starts opening statements in defense of Donald Smith. 

    10 a.m.: State Attorney Melissa Nelson presents opening arguments.

    9 a.m.: Donald Smith and Judge walk into courtroom. First witness will be Cherish Perrywinkle's mother Rayne Perrywinkle.

    Original Story: 

    The Jacksonville cases of Donald Smith, the suspect in the Cherish Perrywinkle murder will begin opening statements Monday morning.

    Opening statements for Smith's case start Monday at 8:45 a.m. at the Duval County Courthouse. On Friday, a 300-person jury pool was narrowed down to 12 finalists and four alternates. 

    Smith's attorneys made their final attempt Feb. 5 to get the case moved out of Jacksonville because they believe it would be “impossible” for him to get a fair trial.

    Smith is accused of kidnapping 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle from a Northside Walmart and then raping and killing her in June 2013. 

    Follow @ActionNewsJax on Twitter and watch Action News Jax at CBS47 and FOX30 for live coverage on these cases. 

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