Surveillance video taken at a Walmart in Florida captured the moment that 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle was lured away from her mother after a man befriended the family in the store by offering to buy them some clothing and food.
The little girl is captured on video leaving the Walmart with the gray-haired man and entering his white van. The footage details the events that led up to Cherish Perrywinkle entering the van including the man talking with the girl’s mother. Shortly after the pair leave the store, the little girl’s mother frantically calls 911 after realizing her daughter isn’t returning. However, the police are skeptical of the mother’s story due to a custody dispute, and an Amber Alert is not issued. Sadly, the following day, the body of 8-year-old Cherish would be found in the parking lot of a local Baptist church.
The Daily Mail reports that 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle was raped and murdered in 2013 after a gray-haired man lured her from her mother at a Florida Walmart. The girl’s mother, Rayne, told police that a man she identified as Donald Smith, who was 56 at the time of the murder, had befriended the family and offered to buy her two young girls some clothing at the Walmart. The surveillance video shows a gray-haired man that meets Donald Smith’s description speaking with Rayne and the two girls. However, his eyes seem fixed on 8-year-old Cherish.
After doing a little shopping with Rayne, the man tells the mother that he would like to buy the family some McDonalds, located at the front of the store. He tells Rayne she can finish shopping, but asks if Cherish can go with him to the McDonald’s to help him carry back the food, and Rayne agrees. However, as the surveillance footage shows, once the gray-haired man made it to the front of the store with Cherish, he did not enter the McDonald’s. Instead, the pair stood outside of the McDonald’s for about 30 seconds before exiting the store and entering a white van.
This would be the last time the young Cherish was seen alive. The next day, the body of Cherish would be discovered in the parking lot of the nearby Highlands Baptist Church in Jacksonville. Once Cherish’s mother, Rayne, realized that her daughter was not returning, she called 911 as she frantically searched the Walmart for her daughter.
In the 911 call you can hear Rayne telling the dispatcher that the man wanted to buy her daughter “inappropriate” shoes that were too tall from the women’s section and that she declined. She seemingly began to put the pieces together realizing that the man had taken her daughter and that she may never return.
“Maybe he was grooming her. I hope to God he doesn’t kill her and I hope to God he doesn’t rape her.”
Despite Rayne reporting her daughter missing and possibly abducted, it was disclosed that response to the abduction was delayed because authorities were skeptical of the mother’s story as she was in the middle of a custody battle. Therefore, an Amber Alert was not immediately issued so the media was not notified.
In response to the girl’s death and lack of Amber alert, six officers from the Jefferson Sheriff’s Office were disciplined and told that if a child is missing, even if you think the mother is lying, you should immediately try to find the child and an Amber Alert should be issued.
“If there’s a doubt in your mind as law enforcement whether or not she’s telling the truth, still follow through immediately to try to find that little child. If you find out that [the mom] is lying, you go back and you charge her with giving false information to a law enforcement officer.”
Donald Smith is slated to stand trial for the rape and murder of Cherish Perrywinkle next month for the 2013 murder.