JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A registered sex offender is charged with the kidnapping and murder of a local girl.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has arrested 56-year-old Donald Smith, who they say first approached the mother of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle at a Dollar General on Norwood Avenue around 7:30 PM Friday. The police report obtained by WOKV says Smith told the woman his wife had a $100 gift card to Walmart that he would use to by clothing for the woman and her three children- 5, 6, and 8 years old.
When they were at the Walmart on Lem Turner around 11 PM Friday, Smith told the mother he was going to buy food at the front of the store. Cherish followed him.
“He walked to the front of the Walmart, towards the McDonald’s, but he didn’t stop at the McDonald’s, he walked outside, got in his van and left,” says JSO Homeland Security Chief of Investigations Mike Williams.
An active search soon began for Smith and Cherish, and a BOLO was issued for his van. An Amber Alert was issued by morning for the missing girl.
Williams says an officer working a traffic accident on I95 Saturday afternoon recognized Smith’s van. The highway was shut down and exits blocked while he was stopped and detained without incident.
Around the same time, JSO fielded a tip from a concerned citizen who recognized the van being in the area of the United Baptist Church on Broward Road earlier in the day. Police responded, and found a body nearby. While Williams would not completely confirm that the body is that of Cherish Perrywinkle, because the identity has yet to be confirmed by the Medical Examiner, he says they are very confident, and the charges facing Smith list her as the victim.
While Smith has been charged with the kidnapping and murder, Williams says they are still very early on in the investigation.
“Anybody that’s had anything to do with this case, we will obviously pursue that individual and pursue charges if necessary,” he says.
While he doesn’t believe at this time that Smith had an accomplice, police are still looking for a second vehicle.
Smith was released from jail just May 31. He has a lengthy criminal records which includes convictions for kidnapping, child abuse, lewd and lascivious behavior, lewd assault on a child, buying cocaine and grand theft. Police had performed a routine address verification on him just Friday morning.
Our News Partner Action News reports police arrived at Smith's home in San Jose on Segovia Avenue where he lives with his mother. Neighbors say Smith worked as a painter, and that he just got out of jail three weeks ago.
Cherish attended Chaffee Trail Elementary School, according to Duval County Schools spokeswoman Marsha Oliver.
If you have any information on this, call JSO at 904-630-0500. You can also email them at JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org.
You can search the Florida Sexual Offenders and Predators Database for registered sex offenders and sexual predators in your neighborhood.