The JSO officer who found the body of Cherish Perrywinkle also arrested her alleged killer the same morning.
Donald Smith is charged with kidnapping, raping and killing the 8-year-old girl in 2013.
Officers pulled Smith over near the Forest Street exit of I-95. Charles Wilkie ordered him to his knees and cuffed him. When he checked for weapons, he discovered Smith's pants were soaking wet.
"I shouted out, 'oh my god, she's in the water,'" Wilkie said in court Monday.
The moment only lasted a few seconds, but the reaction from Smith, is something Wilkie will never forget.
"He never said anything but just the look on his face confirmed what the evidence was telling me," Wilkie said.
In that moment, the search for Cherish took a turn, a race against time with hope fading.
Then came a 911 call from Christina Howard, who remembered seeing Smith's white van parked behind Highland Baptist Church on Broward Street earlier that day.
Attorneys played the 911 call in the courtroom.
Smiths' face showed no emotion, but Howard was brought to tears on the stand, as the memory of frantically searching for Cherish came rushing back.
"We rolled down the windows, we screamed for Cherish," Howard said. "We drove around screamed for her name, we were hoping that we could hear a little girl, anything."
The response never came, but Wilkie arrived with his partner, police dog Gator.
The pair zeroed in on a tree that was resting on its side in the creek behind the church, which led to the heartbreaking discovery,
"What I could see up under the tree was Cherish laying on her left side and she was facing away from me and her hair was kind of floating in the water," Wilkie told the courtroom.
The jury could likely hear more difficult testimony Tuesday, as the medical examiner, Dr. Valerie Rao is expected to take the stand.