Saturday, November 18, 2017
Public safety

No bail for sex offender accused in girl's killing

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JACKSONVILLE — A judge denied bail Sunday to a registered sex offender accused of abducting and killing an 8-year-old Florida girl.

Donald James Smith, 56, of Jacksonville was arrested Saturday and faces charges of murder and kidnapping in the death of Cherish Perrywinkle.

Authorities say Smith befriended Cherish and her mother while they shopped at a dollar store Friday night.

Smith took them to a Walmart, where he offered to buy them clothes and hamburgers, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Instead of buying the snacks, Smith walked out of the store with Cherish, the Sheriff's Office said. The girl's mother called 911 when she noticed they were missing.

Authorities initially spelled the girl's name as Charish Perriwinkle in an Amber Alert on Saturday, but later changed her last name to Perrywinkle. Victim's advocate Ann Dugger of the Justice Coalition says she spoke with the girl's mother, who said her daughter's name is Cherish Perrywinkle.

A tip led investigators to Cherish's body in the woods near a church Saturday morning. Police arrested Smith after stopping his van on Interstate 95.

Judge Roberto Arias denied Smith bail on Sunday morning.

Smith's public defender, Fred Gazaleh, told the Florida Times-Union before the hearing that Smith didn't have a chance of getting bail, "not on this charge."

Gazaleh did not immediately respond to messages left Sunday by the Associated Press.

Smith's next court appearance is scheduled for July 16.

Authorities have not disclosed how Cherish died. Smith did not immediately cooperate with investigators after his arrest, Mike Williams, director of investigations at the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, said Saturday.

Smith has been a registered sex offender since a 1993 conviction in Duval County for attempted kidnapping and selling obscene materials.

He has been arrested several times since then.

Florida Department of Corrections records show what when he was released from prison in 2006 after serving time for stolen property convictions, he lived at the Palace Mobile Home Park in St. Petersburg at 2500 54th Ave. N. The park has gained notoriety in recent years as a haven for sex offenders who have trouble finding housing anywhere else. He lived there for about eight weeks, Bay News 9 reported, and no one at the park could recall him.

Smith was most recently arrested in 2009 on a charge of child abuse after making obscene phone calls to a 10-year-old girl, making verbal threats, and impersonating a social worker with the Florida Department of Children and Families who claimed to be investigating the girl's family.

Smith pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in that case and was released from jail May 31.

He had just met with police Friday morning to comply with a state law that requires sex offenders to verify their address once a year.

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