Donald Smith, accused of killing Cherish Perrywinkle, previously spent time in St. Petersburg

3:49 PM, Jun 24, 2013   |    comments
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Video: Accused child killer spent time in St. Petersburg

 

St. Petersburg, Florida - Her first name is Cherish and the Jacksonville community cherishes the memory of a little girl with a growing memorial. Stuffed animals, balloons, candles and cards pile up at Highlands Baptist Church.

On Sunday night, hundreds of people -- including Cherish Perrywinkle's mother and sisters -- gathered to mourn the 8-year-old murder victim. 

"Tragedy can strike anywhere, anyone," the pastor told the packed church.

Also on Sunday, Donald Smith appeared in court for the first time. The 56-year-old was denied bond on kidnapping and murder charges.

Law enforcement investigators say it was Smith who befriended Cherish and her mother Reyne Perrywinkle on Friday night and who eventually lured the girl out of a local Walmart and into his white van.

SEE ALSO: Look up sex offenders in your area

Authorities have not said how Cherish was killed. Her body was found in a wooded area near the Baptist church on Sunday, about the same time that Smith was being arrested on I-95.

"I feel so sorry for the mother," says one woman from Smith's neighborhood. "I hope they put him away for good now."

Smith has a criminal record that goes back decades, including a history of trying to lure children. After being released from prison in 2007, he lived for 10 weeks at the Palace Mobile Home Park in St. Petersburg.

An old file indicates Smith attended a therapy program for sexual offenders located at the park, but the program's current director did not have contact with him. 

"He was only here for a short time," said Jim Broderick of Florida Justice Transitions. "Too short for anybody here to work with him and give him the intense therapy that we normally do give."

Broderick says sexual offenders who successfully transition into society, usually stick with the not-for-profit therapy program for at least two years.

And while people in the program now do not remember Smith, his arrest for this horrific crime could still impact them. Broderick says when a sexual offender commits another crime, the public's fear ratchets up and second chances for his clients dry up.

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