In June 2013, Cherish Perrywinkle was abducted from a Northside Walmart by Donald Smith, who had become friends with her mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, before robbing and strangling her.
The jury unanimously recommended that Smith be given the death penalty after finding him guilty of kidnapping, raping, and killing Cherish.
Circuit Judge Mallory Cooper, who heard Cherish’s mother describe the effect on her life and the lives of her family at a recent court session, will make the final decision regarding Smith’s punishment.
Loss of Custody and Home
Perrywinkle testified in court, overcome with sorrow, that in addition to losing Cherish, she also lost her home, custody of her two younger daughters, and her home.
She glared fiercely at Smith and added, “More than anything else, I lost Cherish in the most violent way possible.”
The reason Perrywinkle lost custody of her two younger children and her house is unknown, but the effect on a bereaved family is obvious.
Perrywinkle expressed her own wish for Smith to suffer for taking her daughter’s innocence and life, praising the jury’s unanimous decision to sentence him to death.
An Emotional Loss
According to a source, Perrywinkle claimed that among all the things she lost as a result of Cherish’s passing, the eight-year-old girl herself had the greatest influence on her life.
“I will never get to watch her mature. I will never get to watch her settle down and enjoy life. That was snatched from me, and I can never get it back.
Perrywinkle said while trying not to cry. Because of what he did, I feel so much rage inside. This level of hostility is unprecedented in my life.
Perrywinkle acknowledged that the events of that night will always be a part of her and that there is no remedy for her emotional agony.
Cherish has a particularly difficult time during the holidays because she was born on Christmas Eve. She stated to reporters:
“When other people celebrate Christmas Eve, it is Christmas Eve to them; nevertheless, Cherish’s birthday will always be remembered in my mind on that day. We have never been able to celebrate the holidays as a family since she was taken from me, and I never will.
Rayne Perrywinkle has experienced daily reminders of her daughter Cherish ever since she passed away. The small things, like stroking Cherish’s hair, watching her play with her sisters, and anticipating her return from school, mean a lot to her.
She reportedly had to be restrained by a bodyguard during court outbursts during the trial because the emotional suffering she is experiencing is almost intolerable.
An Unlikely Meeting
Rayne Perrywinkle told reporters that she met Smith after he introduced himself to her in the Dollar General parking lot on the evening of Cherish’s death.
She described him as personable and said he offered her a Walmart gift card, stating his wife had one and would meet them there.
She added that Smith suggested they get some cheeseburgers after they had been permitted to shop for about an hour.
Cherish accompanied him to the front of the Walmart, but instead of stopping for food at the McDonald’s there, Smith skipped out of the door with Cherish.
The last confirmed image of Cherish alive was captured during the incident on surveillance footage.
The Torture and Terror
The Medical Examiner and other professionals gave the court graphic details of what happened to Cherish after that.
The description of Perrywinkle’s daughter’s suffering and terror was heard from an adjacent courthouse room while Mrs Perrywinkle listened.
Perrywinkle could never have comprehended the suffering that was felt at that time. It shattered me. I was hollering. I was screaming on the ground,” Perrywinkle recalled. “He needs to be executed.”
Hope for Closure
Smith was quickly found guilty by the jury. They recommended the death punishment by a vote of 12-0. Cooper, however, has the final say on the matter.
Given the rarity of a court overturning a jury’s verdict, Perrywinkle is likely to achieve her goal of knowing that the state will execute the man who murdered her daughter.
Many people take comfort in the knowledge that those accountable for the unimaginable suffering done to innocent families will be held accountable for their crimes.
It is hoped that Perrywinkle, her family, and many other people who are experiencing uncontrollable grief may find some sense of justice and closure in this decision.
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