Jacksonville, FL - Sorrow and despair are truly the only ways neighbors in one Northside neighborhood can describe waking up to a crime scene where they live.
“We’re a close-knit, quiet community,” Deborah Worthen tells me.
She was one of the first people to see the blocks surrounding the Highlands Baptist Church on Broward Blvd get taped off, and she tells me she couldn’t believe when she found out why.
“Just hurts so bad to hear that an 8-year-old would have to lose her life,” she says.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office says the body of 8-year-old Cherish Perriwinkle was found in that area. She had been abducted from a WalMart on Lem Turner Friday night. The man suspected in the abduction, a registered sex offender, is being questioned by police.
“It hit home real hard because I got some nieces and nephews, grandchildren, that are the same age as the little bitty girl,” says Sam Worthen.
He works with the local school board, so seeing this crime dealing with a young child is especially troubling and concerning.
All the people I spoke with describe their neighborhood as quiet, safe and crime free- in large part because they all watch out for each other. Robert Hamilton tells me he rides his bike in the area every day, and knows the people he passes every day.
“I’ll never be able to go by that church again without thinking about that little girl,” Hamilton says.
As they look on over the crime tape, they told me their hearts were breaking for the little girl’s family, and they would all be watching their own children a little more closely this evening.