Rayne Perrywinkle, the mother of murder 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle, testified Monday in the trial of Donald Smith. Prosecutors played back the panic-filled 911 call in which the mother tearfully told the dispatch operator that her daughter disappeared.
As heard on audio, she said a man approached her and her children, and offered to buy them clothes. Perrywinkle attempted to describe Cherish and the man but she fell short.
“I can’t remember what my own child is wearing,” she said, pointing out that she was panicking.
Reliving that call on Monday seemed difficult for Perrywinkle. She could be seen crying in the witness stand, and wiping her nose.
She testified that she, and her three daughters, including Cherish, first went to a dollar store that June 21, 2013. Cherish was going to fly out the next day to visit her father in California. Perrywinkle testified that a man, later identified as Smith, approached them, and offered to buy them clothes at a Walmart.
#DonaldSmith – Footage outside the Dollar General. Rayne testifies Smith approached her and said he would buy a dress for her daughter that she had been looking at. Also his wife had a $150 Walmart gift card they would use to purchase clothes for the girls. pic.twitter.com/gb0gqck8v1
— Law & Crime Network (@LawCrimeNetwork) February 12, 2018
Perrywinkle didn’t have a car, and Smith drove the family over to Walmart. On the stand Monday, Periwinkle said she was weary of Smith at first, believing he was going to rob her, but after talking to him, she stopped believing him to be a threat.
Cherish later disappeared after Smith offered to buy the family food from McDonald’s. Rayne testified that she thought he meant the McDonald’s inside the store, and said she wouldn’t have let her daughter walk away with Smith if he meant a location outside.
The defense did not cross-examine Perrywinkle.
#DonaldSmith trial: State ends questions after Rayne explains the last time she say her daughter. Jury leaves. Donald Smith does not want his defense team to ask Rayne Perrywinkle questions.Smith: Don’t want her to go through anything she doesn’t want to.Rayne becomes tearful.
— Jenese Harris (@WJXTJenese) February 12, 2018
During opening statement’s Monday, Florida State Attorney Melissa Nelson called Perrywinkle’s death “brutal and tortured.” Defense lawyer Julie Schlax said the prosecution’s opening statement was designed to “anger” the jury, and instead told jurors to parse through the evidence, and make the state meet the burden of proof.
Smith, a registered sex offender, faces execution if convicted. It would be the end of a life long dotted by crimes involving children. He was arrested in 1977 for exposing himself in the presence of a minor, spent a year in jail, put on probation, then imprisoned for 14 months after violating that probation. He landed behind bars again because of a 1993 conviction for attempted kidnapping. Prosecutors said he tried to lure three young girls into his van. Later, he was convicted in for posing as a member of the Department of Children and Family services so he could get access to a child. Authorities released Smith for that crime in May 2013, less than a month before he was arrested for killing Cherish.
[Screengrab via Law&Crime Network]