Memorial grows for Jacksonville girl found dead

By Erica Rakow, General assignment reporter, erakow@wjxt.com
Published On: Jun 23 2013 12:43:57 AM EDT
Updated On: Jun 23 2013 12:10:00 AM EDT

As Cherish's family learned the tragic news of her murder this morning many people have been trying to lend their support in comforting her loved ones.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The Northside neighborhood where Cherish Perrywinkle lived is coming together to support her family.

Cherish's body was found near a Northside church on Saturday morning about 11 hours after police say she taken by Donald James Smith, the 56-year-oldconvicted sex officer who befriended the family and went with them to the Lem Turner Road Walmart. He is now charged with kidnapping and murder.

Cherish's mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, told Channel 4 Saturday night that she is blaming herself.

Cherish lived with her mom, two younger sisters and her mom's boyfriend. Their neighbors are trying anything they can to console Perrywinkle. Patrick Williams lives near the family.

"She's very upset," said Patrick Williams. "She's blaming herself and she doesn't know why this happened to her and her child."

Perrywinkle said Cherish was supposed to fly to California on Saturday to visit her father. She said they were out shopping for clothes Friday night when her worst nightmare unfolded before her eyes.

Williams said Perrywinkle's boyfriend came to him asking for help when they didn't come home Friday night.

"I left Aaron up there at Walmart and I came home and me and my wife prayed," said neighbor Richard Harvey. "After we got through praying, I didn't have a good feeling about it."

Pastor Steve Dobbs brought the family food and lots of prayer while friends and neighbors just standby, ready to help.

"Just to encourage them to let them know that we love them because the way it is right now, she feels like that everybody in the world is against her," said Dobbs. "All the writings in the stuff, but you know she made a mistake, she agrees she made a mistake and it cost the life of her daughter."

Crystal Brookshire said she was at the same Walmart where Perriwinkle was kidnapped.

"I keep trying to think back, I just wish she would have screamed something," said Brookshire. "Help, anything."

Brookshire said she is now leaving balloons and flowers for the little girl at a memorial in front of Highlands Baptist Church, near where Cherish's body was found Saturday morning.

"He literally walked out with her. She never screamed," said Brookshire. "There was no, 'Help!' There was nothing like that."

Brookshire shared some strong words about Smith.

"He should have never been let out to begin with. Our justice system is failing," Brookshire said. "Our kids are -- we're not safe and our kids are not safe."

Brookshire said more than anything, she wishes there was something she could've done to help.

"My prayers are with all of the family and for everyone who knew this little girl," said Brookshire. "I mean, I cannot imagine what this family is fixing to go through."

Perrywinkle told Channel all she wanted was to be able to see Cherish, and she doesn't want to wait until the funeral.

A candlelight vigil is planned for 6 p.m. Sunday at Highlands Baptist Church, 2159 Broward Road.   Cherish's mother plans to attend.

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