Jurors took just minutes to find Donald Smith, 61, guilty Wednesday of abducting, raping and killing 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle after luring her away from her family at a Florida Walmart in 2013.
Jurors found Smith guilty of murder, kidnapping and sexual battery 14 minutes after the case was sent to jurors.
Cherish was abducted from a Walmart in 2013 after Smith persuaded her mother that he would buy the poor family some clothes with a gift card. Smith had introduced himself as a good Samaritan to the mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, at a discount store earlier in the day, saying his wife would meet them at the Walmart and bring the card.
“He saw that (Perrywinkle’s mother) was down on her luck and money was tight,” prosecutor Mark Caliel said Wednesday during closing arguments. “(Smith) made her feel safe with his lies and deception, and then he preyed upon her.”
The wife never showed, and Smith instead lured Cherish away from her mother and two sisters as they shopped. Surveillance footage showed the girl following Smith out of the store and getting into his white van.
“He looks like a harmless old man. Little did (Rayne Perrywinkle) know what lurked beneath the surface,” Caliel said. “Sometimes in this world, we like to think that there is goodness in man. And that day, Rayne Perrywinkle hoped that his intentions were true and pure.”
Cherish's body was found in a Jacksonville creek, and when police arrested Smith his pants were wet. Also, police say his DNA was found all over her body.
“That little girl had to endure a nightmare no child should have to endure,” Caliel said.
Caliel replayed a recording Wednesday of Smith speaking with a fellow inmate at the Duval County Jail two years after Cherish’s murder in which he could be heard talking about a group of girls who are 12 or 13 years old.
"That's right up my alley, right there, that's my target area," he could be heard saying. "I'd like to run into her at Walmart."
Caliel also reminded the jury about autopsy photos that were shown in the courtroom Tuesday and left some jurors in tears.
“Those images will forever be a part of you. They will forever be a part of your memory, burned into your memory,” Caliel said. “I want you to remember what he did to her. How he strangled the life from her body. Three minutes. … That’s how long it took, at a minimum, to take her life, while she fought.”
The penalty phase will begin Tuesday.
The Associated Press and the Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.
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