A Florida man facing a possible death sentence talked openly about his sexual interest in young girls. That’s according to jailhouse tapes obtained by prosecutors and played at the man’s trial.
Donald Smith, 61, is accused of kidnapping, raping, and murdering 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle. Surveillance footage shows Smith leaving a local Walmart store with the little girl and pulling out of a parking lot in the defendant’s white van. After an AMBER Alert, eyewitnesses spotted the defendant’s van in a marshy area near a church. Police later spotted the van, pulled it over, and arrested the defendant. His clothes were the same ones he was wearing in the Walmart video. His clothes were wet. The girl’s body was found in a creek where the eyewitnesses had spotted the van. Her body tested positive for the defendant’s DNA in multiple places. The victim’s DNA was also on the defendant’s body at the time of his arrest.
As if the case was not strong enough, investigators placed a recording device in an air vent leading to the defendant’s jail cell. The recording device picked up conversations between Smith and an inmate in a neighboring cell. During those conversations, Smith said he targeted girls of the approximate age of 12 and even commented on the bodies of both the victim and of other girls who were touring the facility. Commenting on the latter, he said of one girl that he wished he had “run into her at Walmart.” At one point, the neighboring defendant said, “Cherish had some butt on her.” The defendant said, “she ain’t black, but she had a lot for a white girl.” The recordings occurred two years after the defendant’s arrest, an officer testified.
Defense attorneys did not cross-examine the officer who introduced the recordings.
The clips played in court were brief, but they were part of a reported 72 hours of recordings made by investigators in the case. Smith’s defense argued unsuccessfully to keep the recordings out of court under the theory that the recordings were conversations between Smith and another inmate who was working as an agent of the state. As an agent of the state, the defense argued, the other inmate was required to give Smith a Miranda warning before interviewing him about the Cherish Perrywinkle case. The judge disagreed with that characterization and allowed the recordings to come into the trial.