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S3 / EP31: Abducted and Murdered • Cherish Perrywinkle

Updated: Jul 27

Forewarning: you will think about this case LONG after you listen to this episode! It's a gut-wrenching crime, and the perpetrator is absolutely remorse-less. If you get the opportunity, watch parts of the trial for Donald Smith on Youtube. He asked his lawyers not to cross examine Rayne Perrywinkle - the mother - so as not to cause her any additional trauma.


There will be many things that will bother you about this crime, but it's also baffling that Donald Smith's mother, who grossly enabled his drug addiction, struggled with believing the charges against her son - even AFTER knowing that he'd been convicted before for a similar crime. Unbelievable.


This episode is sponsored by Athletic Greens. Get a FREE 1 year supply of immune-supporting Vitamin D AND 5 FREE travel packs with your first purchase by visiting athleticgreens.com/EMERGING.


You can find me on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok!

 

Transcribed Episode / S3 EP31: Abducted and Murdered • Cherish Perrywinkle


[Host]


This podcast contains crimes against children and may not be suitable for some listeners, listener discretion is advised. Be sure to head over to thecrimeshack.com for all available episodes, merchandise, and show notes, and subscribe to us for free wherever you get your podcasts. As you know it takes a lot of research and time to keep this podcast going, you can help this show by purchasing merchandise, becoming a Patreon member for access to exclusive content or just by Buying Me a Coffee. Also if you're enjoying this podcast, do me a favor and head over to Apple Podcast and give me a review. Tell me what you like or don't like about the show. Any and all support is greatly appreciated.


This episode is sponsored by Athletic Greens...more on that later on in the episode.


[Host]


In this episode, I’ll be talking about a case that was widely publicized on the news at the time it occurred, as the abduction of the young child was actually caught on the Walmart store cameras. This case will bring up all kinds of emotions….shock, anger, repulsion, sadness, disgust, and your first instinct while listening, will be to immediately judge the parent. But like all crimes, judgment should be directed to the perpetrator of the crime, and after listening to this episode and the actions of the abductor, it won't be difficult to do.


This case is also a stark reminder to always trust your instinct, if something seems off to you, doesn’t feel right, trust that gut feeling because it’s usually right.

Rayne Perrywinkle met Billy Jarreau in 2003 while Billy was in the Navy and Rayne was working at a strip club in Jacksonville Florida. Billy would go to the strip club a couple nights a week and he ended up having a one-night-stand with Rayne which resulted in her becoming pregnant. On Christmas Eve of 2004, she had their daughter, Cherish Lily Perrywinkle. In the following months the two began to fight over custody of Cherish with Billy fighting for full custody twice.

The judge ultimately awarded shared custody between Rayne and Billy, with Rayne obtaining primary custody. Billy eventually moved to San Diego California and he would fly Cherish out there each summer.

Rayne eventually got into a relationship with Aharon Pearson and they moved in together. They had two daughters, a daughter born in 2008 named Destiny and another daughter born just a year later named Nevaeh.

In the summer of 2013, 8 year old Cherish was scheduled to fly to southern California to see her father on June 22nd. Rayne wanted to buy some new clothes for Cherish for the trip so on Friday June 21st, the night before Cherish was to fly out, Rayne planned to take all three of her girls to Walmart to buy some clothes.

Rayne and her daughters headed out of their house on foot. Rayne didn’t have a car, so her youngest daughter Nevaeh, who was 4, was in a stroller, and her other two daughters, Cherish and 5 year old Destiny were walking. It was due to rain that day, but was warm, so the girls were wearing summer dresses and skirts. Cherish’s long brown hair was pulled back with a pink headband, and she was wearing an orange dress with no sleeves that had a fruit pattern on it and purple flip flops.

They first made a stop at the Dollar General store on Edgewood Avenue in Jacksonville around 7:30pm to pick up a pencil sharpener and to look at some of their clothes. A tall man, with white hair, wearing a black tee shirt and blue jeans, stood at the front of the Dollar General store and just stared directly at them. The man then followed them as they walked around the store. Rayne noticed the man watching her, and thought it was odd.

Rayne picked up a black and white dress with hearts on it and asked an employee how much it was. She then realized she probably wouldn’t have enough money to get the dress, being that she still had to go to Walmart and get a taxi for Cherish the next day, so she put the dress back. Aharon had given Rayne $100 to pay for clothes for the girls but she also needed the money to pay for the Taxi rides to the airport the following day.

Rayne checked out at the front of the store with the few items she had. She saw the strange man with the white hair again, this time he was directly behind her looking over her shoulder, so she thought that maybe he was intending on stealing her money.

Rayne and her daughters then walked out of the Dollar General and when they were outside, they were approached by the strange man. He walked up to Rayne and told her “if you really want that dress, I’ll get it for you.” He also pointed to the three girls and told Rayne that it looked like she had her hands full.

The man proceeded to tell Rayne that he had a $150 Walmart gift card, but that he was waiting for his wife. They continued to stand there outside of the Dollar General and talk for awhile, but Rayne began to wonder where his wife was...the man told her “she’s coming.” Rayne asked him what kind of car she drove, and the man told her that she drove a gold car.

The man told Rayne that he worked at Habijacks, a homebuilder and affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, and that he attended church. During this time, it began to rain, but they continued to wait. The man suggested they all get into his 1998 White Dodge van and drive to Walmart, but Rayne was skeptical. His demeanor then changed and he started to get snippy with Rayne because she and the girls wouldn’t get into the van, telling her that she could look at his drivers license if she wanted to. After she looked at his license, she felt silly, and thought that she was just being paranoid.

When the wife didn’t show up, Rayne decided at that point to get into his van with the girls. Inside the van, there was only one bucket seat in the far rear of the van, the seat in the middle was removed and the passenger seat was tilted all the way back. She couldn’t fold the stroller, so she just pushed it inside the body of the van. She got into the passenger seat and the girls got into the bucket seat in the rear of the van.

On the way to Walmart, the man asked how old they all were...he told them he was 61. He also told them his name…”Don.” Rayne asked him where his wife was from, and he told her that she was from the Virgin Islands. He also looked at Rayne and told her that she was safe. Unbeknownst to Rayne, the man sitting next to her was named Donald Smith, and he was in fact not married.

Donald Smith grew up in Florida and his first recorded brush with the law came in 1974 when he was 17 years old and was charged with burning a stolen vehicle. Just three years later his crimes against children began. He was driving his mother’s convertible when he stopped outside a home where two girls, aged 5 & 8 were selling Cokes. Smith then masturbated in front of the children. When he was arrested he tried to plead insanity, but a judge found him to be a mentally disordered sex offender and sentenced him to 18 months in a state hospital followed by a year in jail and 10 years’ probation.

Following this incident, he had additional arrests for burglary, battery, bad checks, auto theft and prowling.

Smith had a child, a son, with a woman named Francine, out of wedlock, and they married in 1994 while he was in prison. He was arrested again four years later for buying counterfeit crack cocaine from an undercover cop and masturbating in a grocery store parking lot.

Francine eventually had enough and filed for divorce, obtaining full custody of their child.

Smith spent 1999-2002 under involuntary civil commitment after he met the criteria of a violent sexual predator as part of the state’s Jimmy Ryce Act.

He was then sentenced to four years in prison for burglary.

In 2009, a woman named Stephanie Thornton, described an incident when Smith, pretending to be an investigator with the Department of Children and Family Services, contacted her 9 year old daughter in a phone call. When he called, he told Stephanie that he was following up on allegations that her daughter had been molested by her grandfather. When he got the little girl on the phone, he began to say obscene things to her. When the girl’s grandmother got on the line, he threatened her by saying he was going to have them all put in jail and told her that they needed to meet him at a local McDonalds so that the young girl could get checked out. They went to the McDonalds but Smith drove away. He was arrested after police traced the call.

In 2011 Smith took a plea deal to avoid the young girl testifying, so his charges were dropped from a felony to misdemeanors. He spent just two years in jail for that incident, but could have spent 20+ years in prison if the young girl would have testified. So, Smith had been released from jail just 20 days prior to encountering Rayne and her daughters at the Dollar General.

As they pulled into the Walmart Supercenter parking lot on Lem Turner Road in Jacksonville around 8:30pm, Rayne still couldn’t see his wife’s gold car.

As Rayne and her girls were in the van in the parking lot waiting for the wife to pull up, Smith picked up his phone and acted like he was on a call with his wife and they were discussing where to eat. He mentioned something about Chinese food.

A couple of minutes passed, before Smith suggested that Rayne go inside Walmart to the little girl’s section with her daughters and that he would meet them.

In-store cameras would pick up Cherish and her two younger sisters tagging along with their mother as they shopped through the aisles of Walmart looking for clothes and shoes.

When Smith finally met up with Rayne and her daughters, Rayne asked him again, “where’s your wife?” Smith told her, “She’s coming.”

While they were shopping, Smith was just walking around with them, watching them, not picking up any times, until he grabbed one item...a bundle of rope, and put it into their cart.

Smith would pay particular attention to Cherish. He went and picked out high heeled women’s shoes and told Cherish to show them to her mother, but Rayne told him those were inappropriate for a little girl. Cherish also went with Smith into separate sections of the store and even into the dressing rooms. Rayne didn’t think much of the interaction or of him taking her daughter into other aisles, as she felt safe inside Walmart.

After they had been in the store for about an hour and a half, Smith told Cherish that he was going to the front of the store to the McDonald’s to get food and told Cherish to tell her mother. Cherish ran up to her mom and says, “mom he has a gift card, what do you want to eat?” Rayne knew it was late and her girls hadn’t eaten yet. Rayne answered, “cheeseburgers.”

Cherish then walked away with Smith and headed to the front of the store towards the McDonalds. When up at the front, they paused at the McDonald’s for just a minute, didn’t order anything but then turned and walked out, exiting the store, with Cherish walking right beside Smith.

At 10:30pm, an announcement over the Walmart intercom system stated that the store was closing in 30 minutes. Rayne went up to the McDonalds to see if Smith and Cherish were there - they weren’t. She then looked through each checkout lane - they weren’t there either. She began to panic. She started to yell out “HELP! My daughter’s been taken!” but no one seemed to notice.

She was then approached by store employee Carlissa Ivey, and told her that her daughter was missing and to page her on their system, which they did. The Walmart was then put into lock down and all the entrances, exits, and the garden center were locked while employees looked for Cherish. Rayne then used Carlissa’s cellphone to call 911:

[911 Call: Rayne Perrywinkle]

[911 Dispatcher]

911 (inaudible)


[Rayne Perrywinkle]

Hi I’m at Walmart think my daughter’s been taken. Taken by a stranger, I can’t find her.

[911 Dispatcher]

Ok ma’am how old is your daughter

[Rayne Perrywinkle]

8 1/2

[911 Dispatcher]

Where did you last see her at?

[Rayne Perrywinkle]

Walmart. I met a man today at Dollar General, he drove us here to buy us some clothes, the only reason I went with him because he said his wife was gonna be here and I told him I don’t take rides with strangers.

[911 Dispatcher]

What’s your daughters name

[Rayne Perrywinkle]

Cherish

[911 Dispatcher]

And her last name

[Rayne Perrywinkle]

Perrywinkle with a P

[911 Dispatcher]

And is she white female, black female

[Rayne Perrywinkle]

She’s a white girl

[911 Dispatcher]

What color shirt

[Rayne Perrywinkle]

Long dark hair I don’t remember what clothes she’s wearing because I’m panicking right now, I’m trying not to panic.

[911 Dispatcher]

Ok and she was last seen with this man.

[Rayne Perrywinkle]

Yes he said he was going to McDonalds but he hasn’t been there.

[911 Dispatcher]

Ok is he a white man or a black man

[Rayne Perrywinkle]

A white man, he’s got white short hair and he’s got dark eyebrows. I had a strange feeling about him when I first met him. He took her to the dressing room twice and I was hoping that she would be okay and I didn’t want him to think I was overly protective, freaking out.

[911 Dispatcher]

What kind of vehicle does he drive.

[Rayne Perrywinkle]

It’s a white van. She’s eight years old, he knew when the store was closing. I had a bad feeling about him and he knew the store was closing, he said he was going to McDonalds and she went with him, I should’ve told her to stay with him. He was giving my 8 year old too much attention. I don’t want him to kill her, I don’t want to be one of those parents that goes through this.

[911 Dispatcher]

Are you outside now ma’am?

[Rayne Perrywinkle]

Yes there’s two police officer out there, two police cars.

[911 Dispatcher]

Ok go ahead and speak with officers.

[Rayne Perrywinkle]

Thank you.



[Host]

While Rayne was calling 911, Carlissa went to view the surveillance video in the store and spotted Smith walking out of the front entrance with Cherish.

Police arrived at Walmart and reviewed the security footage, identifying the man that exited the store with Cherish. They were also able to identify his van from the video footage from the parking lot. At 4:21am, six hours after police received Rayne’s 911 call, an Amber Alert was issued along with the details of the white van.


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[Host]

Almost 9 hours after the 911 call was made, around 7:15 or 7:20am, Christina Howard was driving home from her late-night shift at work with her mother when the two women noticed a white van with blue stripes parked behind the Highlands Baptist Church on Broward Road in Jacksonville. The van was backed up with the rear of the van towards the creek that flowed next to the church, and had its backdoors open.

The women thought that was suspicious, but they continued home. When they arrived home, they then heard the news that a little girl had been abducted at Walmart. They then drove back to the church but the van was no longer there. Christina Howard then called 911:

[911 Call: Christine Howard]


[911 Dispatcher]

911 (inaudible)


[Christine Howard]

Hi we’re calling about a suspicious van over here on Rutgers road, a white van, it was parked behind some bushes really deep, we heard that it was…

[911 Dispatcher]

Rutgers and where?

[Christine Howard]

Rutgers… behind Highlands Church

[911 Dispatcher]

Can you give me the nearest cross street on Rutgers

[Christine Howard]

Broward. Yes ma’am and it was a white van, it’s not there anymore but we don’t know if he dumped anything cause we heard the girl got abducted from Walmart so we're not sure if that’s the van, but a white van was pushed all the way to the back of the bushes this morning.

[911 Dispatcher]

Okay I’ll go ahead and put this in and have an officer check it out okay

[Christine Howard]

Okay thank you bye bye


[Host]

About half an hour later, around 9am, officer Tina Henson, who worked for the Jacksonville sheriff’s office, was working a traffic accident on Interstate 9 when she spotted Donald Smith’s white van passing by her. She got in her car, and called it in, and continued to follow the vehicle. Officer Charles Wilkie in another vehicle, also pulled behind Smith. Officers Wilkie and Henson cornered Smith’s van on Interstate-95 near Interstate-10 in Jacksonville and pulled him over. They shut the highway down while officers arrested Donald Smith. Cherish was not in the van.

Officers asked Smith to step out of the van. When Officer Wilkie handcuffed Smith, he noticed that his clothes were soaking wet. He instinctively knew what that meant and yelled out “Oh my God! She’s in the water!”

While Smith was in custody, police were checking on the tip of the van that was seen in the parking lot behind the baptist Church.

The Highlands Baptist Church on Broward Road was a little over three miles from the Walmart where Cherish was abducted. Behind the church runs Broward Creek that filters into Trout River.

Officer Wilkie and his K9 “Gator” arrived at the church to join other officers in the search for Cherish. He removed “Gator” from his vehicle and instructed him to track. The canine headed to the waterline of the creek.

After Gator signaled Officer Wilkie that Cherish’s scent had been tracked, the officer walked up a little ways further and spotted the little girl. She was partially in the water, her half nude body still clothed in the same orange dress that she was seen wearing in the Walmart surveillance video. The dress was pulled up to her chest and the remainder of her was naked. She was lying on her left side, half submerged under the water, wedged under a fallen log, and partially covered with rocks, grass and a branch.

It’s theorized, based on Smith’s own statements to police and forensic evidence, that Smith bound Cherish in the back of his van and sexually assaulted her, then strangled her with a piece of fabric or a t-shirt before disposing of her body in the creek behind the church.

That morning, June 22nd, Cherish’s father Billy Jarreau was expecting to pick her up at the airport. He woke up around 4:30am to a voicemail from the Sheriff’s office. When he called the Sheriff’s office back, they told him that Rayne had claimed Cherish had been kidnapped the night before from the Walmart in Jacksonville. Billy initially doubted the story because Rayne had always been reluctant to let Cherish fly there for visits so he thought maybe she was trying to sabotage the trip. Billy and his wife began watching the news coverage of Cherish’s disappearance when they discovered that her body had been found that morning.

On June 27th, a memorial was held at the Paxon Revival Center Church, with Pastor Steve Dobbs calling for stricter laws for sex offenders. Cherish was buried at the Riverside Memorial Park Cemetery in Jacksonville. A public prayer service was also held at the Highlands Baptist Church where her body was found.

Smith was booked and held at the Duval County Jail in Jacksonville. While awaiting trial, police obtained video and audio recordings of phone conversations that Donald Smith had during visits with his mother, Patricia Moore, between June 28th, 2013 and July 19, 2013. As he spoke with his mother, he blamed Cherish for her own murder, and told his mother he was planning to fake mental illness at trial. He told her how famous he would be amongst other notorious offenders like Casey Anthony, even bragged to her about how “big” his case was.

His mother, in denial of Smith’s issues with pedophilia, didn’t initially believe that he could’ve killed Cherish or hurt her in any way. Smith told his mother about the night he took Cherish. Knowing he was a sex offender, he recalled thinking, and I quote “Don, you got an 8-year-old girl in your van. They'll never believe anything you say.” He told his mother that quote “the girl had to go.”

He also expressed his concerns to his mother about being attacked by prison inmates, saying that he would have his eye poked out or be raped.

When Smith’s mother presumably asked him if he raped Cherish, he responded and told her, quote “I don’t view children as sexual objects, or sexual partners.” But then he said, “Could it have happened the way they said? Yes, it could have, because …rape is not a sex act. It’s violence. It’s a violent act. Exposing yourself is sex. Touching, that’s sex. Rape. That’s not about sex. It’s about violence. And at that point, I was so psychotic. I was extremely violent.”

Also while in jail, in June of 2015, Smith was having conversations with other inmates through the ventilation system that were covertly recorded. The conversations included Smith and another inmate talking about children, with Smith telling him that he preferred 12 and 13 year old girls, saying, quote “that’s right up my alley right there. That’s my target area, that’s what I go after.” And that he’d quote “like to run into her at Walmart.”

Five years after the murder of Cherish, Donald Smith’s trial began in February of 2018. He pled not guilty to all charges. He arrived in the courtroom each day of his trial, dressed in a button up shirt and clean shaven except for his mustache. Smith had a haughty look on his face, pretty much through the entire trial, except when a clinical psychologist testified in regards to his psychological profile, in which case he looked intrigued. He did not testify on his behalf.

State Prosecutor Melissa Nelson called several witnesses to the stand. One of those witnesses was Kerri Anne Buck. Kerri testified that on September 27, 1992 she had a frightening encounter with Donald Smith when she was 13 years old. She was in her neighborhood walking to a friends house a few blocks away, when she encountered a grey van with tinted windows. A man, who seemed to be around 40 years old, was driving the van.

Kerri identified Donald Smith as the driver of that van in the courtroom. She said that the van pulled up near her as she was walking and asked her if she knew a girl named Suzy. She said she didn’t. Smith then asked her if she went to Southside Middle School, and Kerri told him no (even though she did), so he then asked her if she wanted a ride - she again said no.

When she told him no, he demanded that she get in the van. She then ran towards her friends house, and Smith drove after her. When she got to her friend’s house, she pounded on the door, but no one answered. She then ran to a nearby school that had a playground. The playground had a tube slide, so Kerri crawled up inside to hide. She could hear Smith driving up in his van, when he yelled out “I know you’re in there little bitch, I’m gonna find you!”

When she heard him finally drive away, she crawled out and ran towards another friend's house where she called her mother, and they then called police. An hour later, Smith drove back to the neighborhood where he came upon two girls, aged 13 and 14. He flashed a pornographic picture at them and tried to lure them into his van as well. They ran. This time, Kerri and her mother saw him, and they got into their car and followed his van to get his license plate. They contacted police with that information. Smith was arrested and received 6 years in prison for attempted kidnapping and showing obscene materials to minors.

The defense attorney Charles Fletcher called Dr. Heather Holmes, a clinical psychologist, to testify. She interviewed and evaluated Smith, found him to be competent and not insane, but rather mentally stable and intelligent.

She stated that his relationship with his mother was the single most important relationship, and possibly the only important relationship, he’d had during his lifetime. She went on to describe that his mother always rescued him or assisted him financially throughout his life, with legal matters, paying off drug dealers, basically enabling him. His mother was an educated woman who had married three educated men (none were Smith’s biological father). The family was well-off and moved quite a bit, so Smith never really solidified any friendships.

His family always had money, and Smith attended a private Christian school as a youth. He was prescribed medication prior to becoming a teenager as his stepfather was a psychiatrist and noticed that Smith was having some issues.

Smith admitted all of his crimes and the murder and rape of Cherish to the doctor. She diagnosed him with major depressive disorder, antisocial personality, and borderline personality features, meaning he has a difficult time with interpersonal relationships, any insult to his ego, and becomes rageful. He also has a hard time accepting responsibility and doesn't like to attribute negative characteristics to himself. He has limited capacity with remorse, is more comfortable lying, cheating, and stealing and will engage in behaviors to satisfy his own needs. He also had cocaine use disorder for over 40 years, as well as a pedophilic disorder. She also stated Pedophilia cannot be cured, and that there no medication or therapy that can change what you are attracted to. His cocaine use made him less inhibited and enhanced his pedophilia. Smith had these same diagnoses since 1977.

Throughout the years, when Smith would be given opportunities for treatment of his disorders, he would reject the treatment.

And when Smith told Dr. Holmes that he had raped and killed Cherish, he showed absolutely no remorse. As a matter of fact, he told Dr. Holmes that it was Cherish’s fault that she died - that it was SHE who had gotten into his van and that he was angry when she did because he thought “I’m a convicted sex offender, how am I going to explain this?”

Here’s Prosecutor Melissa Nelson cross-examining Dr. Holmes and asking her to confirm what the evaluation reports state in regards to Donald Smith:


[Donald Smith Trial: Prosecutor Melissa Nelson]


[Prosecutor Melissa Nelson]

And the records as early as the 70’s consistent with what you saw throughout the years is that Mr. Smith demonstrates little motivation to change his sexually deviant and generally antisocial behaviors

[Dr. Heather Holmes]

Correct.


[Prosecutor Melissa Nelson]

You also saw in the records that this defendant was described as manipulative?


[Dr. Heather Holmes]

Yes


[Prosecutor Melissa Nelson]

Selfish?


[Dr. Heather Holmes]

Yes


[Prosecutor Melissa Nelson]

Callous?


[Dr. Heather Holmes]

Yes


[Prosecutor Melissa Nelson]

Uncaring?


[Dr. Heather Holmes]

Yes


[Prosecutor Melissa Nelson]

Lacking empathy?


[Dr. Heather Holmes]

Yes


[Prosecutor Melissa Nelson]

Remorse?


[Dr. Heather Holmes]

Yes


[Prosecutor Melissa Nelson]

And conscious?


[Dr. Heather Holmes]

Yes, those were all in previous doctors reports.


[Host]

Dr. Heather Holmes stated that Donald Smith was of the most dangerous sex offenders that she has ever evaluated.

Next to testify was Dr. Valerie Rao who performed the autopsy on Cherish. She described in detail the injuries that Cherish sustained during her assault. Cherish had multiple bruises on her body and blunt force trauma to her head and neck.

Smith's DNA was found in numerous places over Cherish’s body, including her neck. There was not, however, any DNA underneath her fingernails. The DNA was a 1 in 35 quintillion match to Smith’s. No foreign DNA was detected and seminal fluid was found in Cherish’s mouth, vagina and rectum.

The assault on Cherish lasted hours, not minutes. Here’s Dr. Rao describing some of the injuries that Cherish sustained and answering questions from Prosecutor Melissa Nelson:

[Donald Smith Trial: Medical Examiner Valerie Rao]


[Prosecutor Melissa Nelson]

Okay Dr. Rao do you have an opinion to the cause and manner of death of the death of Cherish Perrywinkle?


[Medical Examiner Valerie Rao]

Yes Mechanical Asphyxia

[Prosecutor Melissa Nelson]

Can you explain what that is to the jury.

[Medical Examiner Valerie Rao]

So what she sustained was tremendous force on her neck such that she basically could not breath. She suffered swelling of her brain as result of lack of oxygen to her brain and as a result of which she died.

[Prosecutor Melissa Nelson]

Can you tell the jury anything about the ligature used to strangle Cherish Perrywinkle?

[Medical Examiner Valerie Rao]

I was not able to actually see - sometimes you can see the weave of the fabric - I couldn’t tel you that, but I can tell you it was a very broad, it could be a t-shirt that she was wearing or that was used apart from her clothing, to tie it so with so much force to give you that ligature mark.

[Prosecutor Melissa Nelson]

We orient the jury to this photograph and explain what is reflected here.

[Medical Examiner Valerie Rao]

You’re looking at her mouth and her nose and her chin. You see all the injuries are kind of in a linear pattern which to me that indicates that the pressure that was put like that, so you caused all those injuries on that area of the face, so demonstrating this right here, the bruising on the chin, the abrasion on her lip, the abrasion right here, and this is the nose, but the inside down between the nostrils, all if you look at it, it’s all in one pattern. So the effect of smothering or keeping her quiet with force enough to cause those injuries.

[Host]

At one point during her testimony, Dr. Rao asked for a recess to take a break, as the testimony was taking a toll on her.

Many of the jurors were brought to tears after seeing the crime scene photos. The defense had requested to suppress the images because they were too shocking and could prejudice the jury. The Judge denied the request. The defense attorney, Julie Schlax, urged the jurors to focus on the law and not their emotions.

On February 14th, 2018 after deliberating for only 12 minutes, the jury came back into the courtroom to deliver the verdict. 61 year old Donald Smith was found guilty of first degree murder and sexual battery and was sentenced to death on May 2nd 2018.

One month following the murder, Cherish’s younger sisters, 5 year old Destiny and 4 year old Nevaeh, were removed from Rayne and Aharon’s home and put into foster care, mainly due to the disrepair of the house they were living in. Aharon and Rayne separated in the week following Cherish’s death.

Aharon had attempted to gain full custody of the two girls. In order to attempt to do so, he had to attend parenting classes twice a week, maintain a steady job, rent a two-bedroom home or apartment, receive grief counseling and also pass a psychological evaluation.

Aharon’s father, Tom Pearson, also fought for custody of the girls. He stated that the girls were always in danger at Rayne and Aaron’s home, as the couple was often fighting. He said that he was well-equipped to care for the children both financially and emotionally.

In November of 2018, Destiny and Nevaeh were ultimately both adopted by Rayne’s sister who lives in Australia, as neither Rayne nor Aharon were able to meet the required criteria to obtain custody of them by the state. Rayne hasn’t spoken to her sister in years.

The custody evaluator, Robert H. Wood, who had handled the custody case between Rayne and Billy, had pushed to have Cherish’s father obtain primary custody because he feared for the child’s future living with Rayne. When he heard about Cherish’s death he, sadly, was not surprised. He said, quote “People are going to say how come nobody saw this? The answer is some people did.”

The judge in the custody case gave Rayne Perrywinkle primary custody because she saw her as the better parent without putting a higher consideration on her mental health. Rayne had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

As with other child cases, this was a difficult one to research. There was a lot of public outrage at Rayne Perrywinkle for allowing her daughter to be in that situation. Although, yes, this is a case that did not include good judgment, again let’s not forget that a vicious predator was involved. Rayne was a desperate mother, who didn’t have much money, and who caved at the perceived kindness and generosity of a stranger. There’s a lot of evil in this world, I read about it every day. There are people in this world whose sole intent is to hurt others.

As I said in the beginning of this episode, trust your gut. Be diligent and mindful of those around you. Our children watch our every move, they look to us for guidance, for safety. They watch who we talk to, and who we trust, and they in turn will be quick to trust that person as well.



[Host]

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