Sex Offender Charged With Murder Of Eight-Year-Old Jacksonville Girl

Melissa Stusinski

Jacksonville, FL -- A registered sex offender was charged with murder in relation to a kidnapped eight-year-old girl, who was found dead on Saturday.

The girl, Charish Perriwinkle, was the subject of an Amber Alert on Saturday morning, but it was canceled shortly after when the girl's body was found near a church.

Donald James Smith befriended Charish and her mother on Friday night while the mother and daughter were shopping at a dollar store. Mike Williams, director of investigations at the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office explained:

"[Smith[ offered to take them to Wal-Mart and buy her family some clothes. They appeared to be down on their luck and he could help them out."

The three spent a couple of hours at Wal-Mart, until Smith offered to buy them hamburgers. He walked to the front of the store with Charish, but instead of buying food, he took the girl to his van and left. When she realized Charish and Smith were missing, the mother called 911.

An Amber Alert followed and a tip about a suspicious van that looked like Smith's led investigators to the eight-year-old's body. An officer on Interstate 95 recognized Smith's van as it drove past her. She called it in, because she was working the scene of a traffic accident.

Authorities shut down the interstate while other officers pulled Smith over and arrested him for the murder of Charish Perriwinkle. Williams added that the registered sex offender has not cooperated with police. He did not say how Charish died or what Smith did between the time he abducted the girl and when he was arrested.

Smith is a registered sex offender because of a 1993 conviction for attempted kidnapping and selling obscene materials. He also has a previous conviction for child abuse after he made obscene phone calls to a 10-year-old girl. He also made verbal threats and impersonated a social worker with the Florida Department of Children and Families.

It is not clear if the sex offender charged with killing eight-year-old Charish has a lawyer.