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Medical examiner cries during trial of man who raped, killed 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle  3 Months ago

Source:   USA Today  

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jurors took just minutes to find a Florida man guilty in the "brutal" kidnapping, rape and murder of eight-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle.

It took jurors 14 minutes, to find sixty-one-year-old Donald Smith guilty on all counts. Smith, a serial sex offender, took Cherish from her mother and sisters at a Walmart in 2013 after her persuaded the girls' mother he would buy them clothes and food. 

"He gagged her, he raped her, he sodomized her, and then he strangled her," State Attorney Melissa Nelson said in her opening statement. "He gagged her with such force her gums and her nostrils bled, he strangled her with such force her eyeballs bled. She did not die quickly, and she did not die easily, in fact, hers was a brutal and tortured death.

During the three-day trial, the State painted Smith as a malicious man who manipulated the victim's mother, who was desperate to care for her young girls.

Rayne Perrywinkle told the judge and jurors in the courtroom that she was initially worried about Donald Smith after he approached her, but after speaking to him, she said she was no longer concerned. 

Rayne said Smith promised her a $150 Walmart gift card, an offer that she desperately needed to care for her daughters.

During the trial, graphic evidence brought many jurors to tears.  Medical Examiner Valerie Rao, who told jurors she’s testified at literally hundreds of trials, had to take a break in testimony after she became upset when she saw graphic photos of the victim's injuries. 

Jurors clasped hands over their mouthswhen they saw the photos of the young girl. The emotion seemed to affect Rao, who told the court she needed a 5-minute break.

Shortly after jurors left, Donald Smith’s attorney’s asked for a mistrial. Attorney Charles Fletcher noted she was the chief medical examiner and “she seen thousands of autopsies.”

The judge denied the request for a mistrial and on Wednesday a jury found 61-year-old Smith, guilty on all counts.

In closing arguments, the State asked the jurors to close their eyes for three minutes and picture the "torture" the young girl faced in the hands of Donald Smith.

"I want you to remember what he did to her, how he strangled the life from her eyes, three minutes that's how long it took to take her life," Prosecutor Mark Caliel said.

Donald Smith's attorney's waived their closing argument.

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