Medical examiner, jurors break down in tears during girl's murder trial

Will Dickey  The Florida Times-Union  AP

Will Dickey The Florida Times-Union AP

A medical examiner fought back tears today as the graphic details surrounding the rape and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle were presented in a Florida courtroom.

Donald Smith enters the courtroom on opening day of his murder trial in the death of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle, Feb. 12, 2018, at the Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville, Fla.

Cherish Perrywinkle was abducted from a Walmart in 2013 after Smith befriended her mother.

Cherish was abducted from a Walmart in 2013 after Smith persuaded her mother that he would buy the poor family some clothes with a gift card. Employees of both the Dollar General where Smith met the family and the Walmart where Cherish was last seen alive verified surveillance footage for the panel, while a formerly married couple described an odd exchange they experienced with Smith in the Walmart parking lot.

Smith's attorneys had asked for the trial to be moved, saying a fair jury was impossible because of widespread local media coverage. CCTV video shows the little girl leaving the store with Smith before never being seen again.

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The medical examiner said the child's female anatomy was "totally distorted" from the trauma of the rape, as First Coast News reporter Anne Schindler live-tweeted. "My daughter's been taken.' And no one wouldn't, no one would help me right away", she said on the stand Monday.

Perrywinkle's voice cracked as she said she would not have let Cherish leave the store with Smith if she knew that's what he was planning.

Judge Mallory Cooper denied the mistrial motion.

"Did you want to believe him?" prosecutor Mark Caliel asked.

Charles Wilkie Sr., a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office K-9 officer who responded to the traffic stop, said as soon as he saw Donald Smith's clothes were soaking wet, he feared the worst.

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An evidence technician then testified that her body was found near a fallen tree, partially covered with grass, vegetation and some asphalt. He also said he vividly recalled the orange dress Cherish was wearing when he found her because his daughter had the same dress. "It was a brutal and tortured death", Nelson said.

There were 19 witnesses called by the State over two days, with State Attorney Melissa Nelson on the prosecution team.

'She died after she sustained tremendous force on her neck such that she could not breathe'.

The jury will now hear evidence in the trial's penalty phase as it decides whether to sentence him to death.

Smith had been released from prison only three weeks before he was arrested in Cherish's death.

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