A medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle became emotional in court Tuesday as she discussed the last moments of the young girl’s life.
Dr. Valerie Rao was testifying during the trial of Donald James Smith, 61, who faces charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual battery of the girl. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.
Rao testified that Cherish had sustained severe injuries from being strangled, tortured and raped. As she looked at photos of Cherish’s battered body, Dr. Rao began to cry and asked to take a break.
The testimony came one day after State Attorney Melissa Nelson gave a devastating opening statement. “Cherish did not die quickly, and she did not die easily,” she told jurors. “In fact, hers was a brutal and tortured death.”
The trial has been difficult for the jurors, who have wiped their eyes, covered their mouths and looked away from the grisly crime scene photos, according to Jacksonville.com.
A Fateful Trip to Walmart
According to a police report obtained by PEOPLE, Smith allegedly lured Cherish’s family to a Jacksonville-area Walmart in June 2013, promising to buy them food and clothing.
Cherish’s mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, initially declined to go with Smith, but he allegedly said that his wife had a $100 Walmart card and they would meet her at the store. Rayne Perrywinkle told police that she told him, “I don’t usually go with strangers, but if your wife is coming, then it’s OK.”
Perrywinkle was unaware that Smith was not married and that he was on the Florida sex offender registry. He had been released from prison just 21 days earlier.
At some point on that trip, the girl vanished. Surveillance video showed Smith and Cherish leaving together. Her mother called 911. “I hope to God he doesn’t kill her and I hope to …read more