Sex offender Donald Smith arrested and charged with murder of Cherish Perriwinkle
A registered sex offender was charged with murder in relation to a kidnapped eight-year-old girl, who was found dead on Saturday.
The girl, Cherish Perriwinkle, was the subject of an Amber Alert on Saturday morning, but it was canceled shortly after when the girl’s body was found near a church.
Donald James Smith, age, 56, befriended Cherish and her mother on Friday night while the mother and daughter were shopping at a dollar store.
“[Smith[ offered to take them to Wal-Mart and buy her family some clothes. They appeared to be down on their luck and he could help them out,” Mike Williams, director of investigations at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office explained.
The three spent a couple of hours at Wal-Mart, until Smith offered to buy them hamburgers. He walked to the front of the store with Cherish, but instead of buying food, he took the girl to his van and left.
When she realized Cherish and Smith were missing, the mother called 911.
During the Amber Alert an officer on Interstate 95 recognized Smith’s van as it drove past her. She called it in, because she was working the scene of a traffic accident.
Authorities shut down the interstate while other officers pulled Smith over and arrested him for the murder of Cherish Perriwinkle. Williams added that the registered sex offender has not cooperated with police. He did not say how Cherish died or what Smith did between the time he abducted the girl and when he was arrested.
“This is a transition from an abduction investigation to a murder investigation,” Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office spokesman Shannon Hartley told reporters. “Obviously, we have the unfortunate answer that we didn’t want to have.”
Smith is a registered sex offender because of a 1993 conviction for attempted kidnapping and selling obscene materials.
He also has a previous conviction for child abuse after he made obscene phone calls to a 10-year-old girl. He also made verbal threats and impersonated a social worker with the Florida Department of Children and Families.
With the approval of the family, Smith was allowed to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of attempted child abuse and attempted impersonation of a public employee. Smith was just released May 31.
After his release, neighbors said Smith lived with his mother in her home on Segovia Avenue in Lakewood. The address is within a half mile of Dupont Middle School.