In June 2013, Donald Smith, a man who had befriended Rayne Perrywinkle, the mother of Cherish Perrywinkle, took the girl from a Northside Walmart and subsequently raped and strangled her.
Smith was unanimously recommended the death penalty by the jury after being found guilty of kidnapping, raping, and killing Cherish.
Circuit Judge Mallory Cooper, who presides over the final decision on Smith’s sentence, listened to the impact on the life of Cherish’s mother and her family during a recent court hearing.
Loss of Guardianship and Residence
Perrywinkle emotionally conveyed in court that apart from losing Cherish, she also lost custody of her two younger daughters and her residence.
“Above all, I lost Cherish,” she asserted, glaring at Smith, “in the most violent manner imaginable.”
The reasons behind Perrywinkle losing the guardianship of her two younger children as well as her residence remain undisclosed, but the impact on a grieving family is evident.
Perrywinkle commended the jury’s unanimous decision to sentence Smith to death and expressed her own wish for him to atone for stealing her daughter’s innocence and life”.
A Heart-Wrenching Loss
Reports indicate that Perrywinkle stated that amidst all her losses following Cherish’s demise, the impact of losing the eight-year-old girl herself had the most profound effect on her life.
“I will never get to see her grow up. I will never see her get married and enjoy life. He has taken that from me, and it can never be returned,”
Perrywinkle, holding back tears, remarked, “I have so much rage inside of me because of what he did. I have never felt this much hatred in my life.”
There is no remedy for Perrywinkle’s emotional anguish, and she admitted that the events of that night will always haunt her.
The fact that Cherish was born on Christmas Eve makes the holiday season especially challenging for her. She told reporters:
“While others celebrate Christmas Eve, to them it is just Christmas Eve, but in my mind, it will always be Cherish’s birthday. Since she was taken from me, we have never been able to spend the holidays together as a family, and I never will again.”
Since Cherish’s demise, Rayne Perrywinkle has encountered daily reminders of her daughter. She treasures the small moments like brushing Cherish’s hair, watching her play with her sisters, and waiting for her to return from school.
The emotional agony she experiences is almost unbearable, and it has been reported that she had to be restrained in court outbursts during the trial.
An Unexpected Encounter
Rayne Perrywinkle revealed to reporters that on the night of Cherish’s death, Smith approached her in the parking lot of the Dollar General store and introduced himself.
She described him as charming and mentioned that he offered to assist her with a Walmart gift card, claiming that his wife had it and would meet them at the store.
She also recollected that after being allowed to shop for nearly an hour, Smith proposed getting some cheeseburgers.
Cherish followed him to the front of the Walmart, but instead of heading to the McDonald’s at the front of the store, Smith departed with Cherish, with her skipping after him.
The entire incident was captured on surveillance video, and it marks the final documented footage of Cherish alive.
The Agony and Dread
The Medical Examiner and other experts provided the court with gruesome details of what transpired with Cherish afterward.
Perrywinkle, from a nearby room in the courthouse, listened to the horrifying particulars of her daughter’s suffering and terror.
The anguish endured in those moments surpassed anything Perrywinkle could have envisaged. “It tore me apart. I was screaming. I was on the floor, screaming,” Perrywinkle said. “He needs to be put to death.”
The jury swiftly found Smith guilty and voted 12-0 in favor of the death penalty. However, the final decision rests with Cooper.
It would be highly uncommon for a judge to overturn the jury’s verdict, so it is probable that Perrywinkle will obtain what she desires: the reassurance that the state will exact retribution on the man who robbed her daughter’s life.
Many individuals find solace in knowing that the individual responsible for the incomprehensible harm inflicted on innocent families will face the consequences of their actions.
It is hoped that Perrywinkle, her family, and many others grappling with immeasurable grief might find in this verdict a sense of conclusion and justice.