Convicted child rapist and killer Donald Smith should be executed for his crimes, a Jacksonville jury decided Thursday.
The jurors took less than 15 minutes on Feb. 14 to find Smith guilty of kidnapping, raping and killing 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle in June 2013. The jurors unanimously agreed to recommend the death penalty, News4Jax reported Thursday afternoon.
Circuit Judge Mallory Cooper will sentence Smith but it is expected that she will follow the jury’s recommendation, the Jacksonville station reported.
In his final argument, prosecutor Mark Caliel recapped the events surrounding Cherish’s murder. “The death penalty is appropriate. The death penalty is just. The death penalty is what he deserves for what he did to that little girl,” he said.
According to testimony, Cherish was abducted from a Walmart nearly five years ago after Smith, now 61, acted under the guise as a “Good Samaritan.” The white-haired man persuaded her mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, that he would buy the poor family some clothes with a gift card. He said he’d buy the girl and her two sisters some cheeseburgers from a McDonald’s inside the store near the entrance. Perrwinkle had mentioned her three girls hadn’t eaten for awhile.
Instead, surveillance footage showed that Smith had lured the girl away from her mother and sisters and out of the store and into his van. After about 20 minutes, Perrywinkle realized something was terribly wrong.
By that time, Smith had already brutally raped and tortured the girl. Her battered body, still clad in the orange dress with the fruit print she was wearing in the store, was found in a Jacksonville creek, stuffed under a log in a marshy, wooded area behind a neighborhood church.
It took more than four years before the case could go to trial.
Thursday, the jury agreed with doctors who testified that Smith was “callous, uncaring, manipulative” and lacked empathy. Smith’s attorney, Julie Schlax, argued he was mentally ill and should be spared the death sentence.