Eight-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle's body told the tale of her suffering before she was finally strangled to death.
Medical Examiner and forensic pathologist Valerie Rao took the witness stand in Cherish's murder trial on Tuesday and talked clinically about the extensive list of injuries she sustained.
Before Cherish was brought to the medical examiner's office a rape kit was conducted. A series of swabbings were taken, as well as nail scrapings and clippings. Swabs were also taken of her breasts, one of which had visible signs of a hickey, according to Rao.
Rao said she went to the crime scene, “Because the nature of the case, it was a child that was abducted. It was something the entire city of Jacksonville was concerned about given that it was a child.”
Cherish sustained a hemorrhage to her head, indicative of blunt force trauma, but not enough to end her young life.
She sustained bruises to her legs, her arms, the hickey on her breast, and various scratches.
But the most extensive injuries were to her genitalia which was torn, swollen, clearly abused, and “distorted”.
The force used to smother her was enough to make her nose and gums bleed.
Her eyes, however, told the story of the moments just before her death. Large petechiae formed in her eyes from the force of strangling her to death. Petechiae are broken blood vessels that occur above where pressure is applied with enough force to keep blood from flowing. The stronger the force applied, the larger the petechiae in the eye are.
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Rao said the burst blood vessels in Cherish's eyes were very large.
“Tremendous force on her neck, such that she basically she could not breathe, she suffered swelling to her brain, as result of lack of oxygen to her brain," she died.
It was not quick.
It takes a person anywhere from three to five minutes to die from being asphyxiated to death.
Despite working hundreds of cases, Rao became emotional during her testimony, "I'm sorry I need to take a break," Rao said. "I just need five minutes."
The court had to recess for 10 minutes and before attorneys, Rao, and the media were asked to leave the room Donald Smith's attorney asked for a mistrial on the grounds of her breakdown.
Rao had seen and conducted "thousands of autopsies" and had been tendered as an expert witness in this case and hundreds of others.