Every parent’s worst nightmare is to lose their children. The younger they are, the more real that fear is.

A young adult can generally handle themselves, and a teen might now overpower an adult but can outrun or exhaust them long enough to find help. Children are the most vulnerable among all victim groups.

They are smaller, weaker, more naive – everything about them makes it easy for evil people to get away with horrible crimes.

These crimes are considered worse than any other, preying upon a group that cannot rightfully exercise the full extent of their will—innocents, whose abusers are always monsters.

Cherish Lily Perrywinkle was a young girl, just eight years old, who was taken a right in front of her parents in the worst way imaginable.

When people think of child abductions, they imagine a harrowing scene of a child being picked up, kicking and screaming, and dragged away by a nasty and hideous excuse for a human being.

The reality is so much worse: she left with a smile with a man she thought was her friend. And she was wrong.

Rayne Perrywinkle



10 The Perrywinkle Family

Cherish was the oldest daughter, at eight years, of Rayne Perrywinkle and Billy Jarreau.

Her parents divorced, and she and the other children were subjected to prolonged and sordid custody battles between the two adults.

This is not the greatest tragedy of Cherish’s short life, but it introduced the slate of events that led to her disappearance and death.




9 Living Low

Rayne took Cherish and her sisters to a Dollar General, where they were initially shopping for some supplies for Cherish.

She was going on a plane the next day to see her father in California, and she wanted to be prepared.

Rayne and her boyfriend were not well off. They had no car to drive to the store and had to walk.

They only had $100 to cover her whole trip, including the ticket, which meant they had precious little to spend on any new clothes.



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8 Enter Don

During their entire shopping trip, a man was walking and talking with the girls and their mother. Donald Smith had repeatedly escorted the girls around the store while they looked at dresses and shoes.

He said he was waiting for his wife, who had a Walmart gift card, and he would help the Perrywinkles out to get some new clothes for Cherish.

It was an entirely kind gesture at face value. Even Rayne didn’t suspect a thing. Despite being a stranger, they accepted his help.

Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock.com

7 The Last Night At Walmart

Don drove the family to the nearby Walmart and went with Cherish to pick out clothes. However, the store was set to close soon.

It was around 10:30 when Don made a suggestion. They hadn’t gotten anything to eat yet, and there was a Mcdonald’s right at the entrance, so he offered to get something for them, and Cherish would go with him.

It was just a short walk away from the cash registers. There didn’t seem to be any problem.

State Attorney’s Office

6 Missing

Half an hour later, the loudspeaker called for last chances at the registers. The store was closing, and Don and Cherish were nowhere in sight. Rayne panicked and called the police.

She said she was afraid her daughter was kidnapped and killed or raped right then.

In her panic, she failed to recall the one dress Cherish had on the whole time, the one they were shopping all along to help replace. An Amber Alert was issued six hours later after the police interviewed Rayne at the scene.

Police Handout

5 Swift Recovery

The following day, 9:00 am, police officers on the Florida interstate spotted Smith’s van, by description, and pursued it to apprehend the driver for questioning.

They got Don, but Cherish wasn’t in his van. They confirmed that it was him and led a search using police dogs from the church where Don was parked. Some ways away, hidden under a tree in a marsh, they found Cherish’s corpse.

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4 The Hidden Truth

Donald Smith had no wife. He was a registered sex offender released from prison only 20 days before his chance encounter with the Perrywinkle girls.

He admitted as much to the police interviewers during his trial that he was waiting and praying for another chance at children again after so long in jail and thought he had a perfect opportunity.

He raped Cherish many times, even after he killed her through strangulation, and disposed of her body the same night he was caught.

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3 The Ultimate Regret

Rayne was hysterical through the whole ordeal, from the time she knew her daughter was missing to the time it was discovered what happened to her.

The entire time prior, she saw no issue with Don. He was friendly, inoffensive, seemed sympathetic to them, and was offering to help.

They had no money for clothes, and Rayne felt like they were safe inside of either store, surrounded by cameras. Those same cameras caught the last glimpses of Cherish alive as she left in his clutches.

2 Closed Case, Open Court

Donald was convicted on the spot by the jury. They spent no more than 15 minutes deliberating the case before moving for the death penalty.

However, back in 2013, that was a difficult call, even for an unrepentant sex offender. The US Supreme Court debilitated Florida’s ability to enforce its death penalty as punishment for convicts.

This led Don’s defense to continually postpone and redo the trial over the years, all of which he remained in captivity.

1 Merciless

It wasn’t until 2018 when Donald was finally put to a fair trial.

At that point, the jurors and attorney representing Cherish’s family had to call for a recess when reviewing the case and the defendant’s confessions, ones where he equated what he did to sheer violence and hate, where he didn’t even know the girl’s name that he killed in a recorded conversation to his mother.

In the end, he was convicted and sentenced to death.

The impact people like Don Smith leave upon the world, even as they are forced to exit it by right of law, is devastating for everyone involved.

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