Jacksonville, FL — Donald Smith has chosen not to testify in his defense, as he faces trial for the 2013 kidnapping, rape, and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle- but his voice was a presence in the final testimony that took place.
The last few witnesses for the State dealt with a covert jailhouse recording of Smith, speaking with another inmate through the air vents of their isolation cells.
FULL COVERAGE: The trial of Donald Smith
The State Attorney’s Office first developed a plan to record the conversations, after getting information in April 2015 that the conversations were taking place. Former Homicide Investigator for the State Attorney’s Office Robert Hinson testified that a confidential informant in the Duval County Jail told them the discussions were about the case and disrupting court proceedings. Carter spoke with Jail intelligence about the layout of those isolation rooms, and obtained the needed equipment to install the recorder in June.
An undercover officer was involved in this installation, although the video and audio feed from the courthouse was terminated for his testimony, because of the nature of his work undercover. Our reporter in the courtroom says the officer testified that he dressed as a maintenance worker to install the devices.
Officer Charles Carter, with JSO’s Department of Corrections Intelligence Unit, further testified about the layout of the cells and installation of the equipment. He then confirmed the voice on the recording is, in fact, Smith.
According to prosecutors, the conversation took place as Smith and the other inmate saw young girls in the distance. Carter says, the way the isolation cells and windows are positioned, it’s possible to see to the elevator area, which is where groups will sometimes pass through on Jail tours. Smith and the other inmate believed at least one girl to be about 12 years old.
“That’s right up my alley right there,” Smith said. “That’s my target area right there.”
Smith told the other inmate that’s what he would “go after”.
“Yeah, I’d like to run in to her at Walmart,” he said.
Smith is accused of taking 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle from a Northside Walmart in 2013, after telling her mother that he would buy clothing for Cherish and her two sisters. The girl's body was later found in brackish water near a church along Broward Road and Rutgers Road. The Medical Examiner testified Tuesday that Cherish had asphyxiated because of "tremendous force" applied to her face and neck.
The jailhouse recording and Carter’s testimony wrapped the State’s case, and the defense chose not to present any witnesses, including Smith himself not testifying. Closing arguments are slated for Wednesday morning, with deliberations to follow after that.
WOKV and Action News Jax will have live coverage of the verdicts as they’re announced. Stay with us for continuing trial coverage.