JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It's been nine days since Cherish Perrywinkle's body was discovered at Highlands Baptist Church.
While the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is still trying to figure out what happened to the child on the night of her reported abduction, First Coast News is learning more details about the case.
Rayne Perrywinkle has talked to First Coast News reporters off camera almost daily since her daughter was taken, and on Monday she spoke to First Coast News on the front porch of her home.
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Perrywinkle has stated before that she never let 8-year-old Cherish go to the Walmart McDonald's with suspect Donald Smith. She said she was uncomfortable around Smith, but that he looked her in the face and told her she was "safe."
Perrywinkle said Smith repeatedly told her his wife would meet the group at the Walmart on Lem Turner Road. She said she was uncomfortable in Smith's van the whole ride to Walmart and noticed the two backseats had been removed. Perrywinkle said that she believes her family was targeted.
Rayne believes her family was targeted due to her family's visiblity -- she three girls walked everywhere.
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After Cherish's death, Perrywinkle said one of her neighbors told her they had seen Smith's van driving through their neighborhood before.
After thinking about it, Perrywinkle said she too remembers a day when that van drove by her street very slowly. She believes the day of Cherish's abduction she and her girls were being watched or followed before getting to the Dollar General on Edgewood Avenue.
She believes the day of Cherish's abduction, she and her girls were being watched or followed before getting to the Dollar General on Edgewood Avenue.
She said the man took Cherish to the dressing room at Walmart twice, as the JSO dispatch center report states, but she made sure Smith never entered the fitting room. Perrywinkle said Smith kept handing items to Cherish to try on and even wanted her to buy a pair of high heels. "Woman shoes," Perrywinkle said when she referred to the heels.
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On the night of Cherish's disappearance from the Walmart, Perrywinkle said she was talking with police until 5:30 a.m. She said she begged officers to please find Cherish. "Please not in a box," Perrywinkle said to officers, hoping they would find her child alive. She was told by officers that the suspect's previous charges were never for murder, but Perrywinkle said something inside her told her Cherish would not be found alive.
Perrywinkle showed First Coast News the scrapes on her knees from when she said she collapsed at the Highlands Baptist Church scene.
"He hid her so well, no one would have ever found her," Perrywinkle told First Coast News. When asked if Cherish was buried, Perrywinkle responded, "Yes."
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JSO will not comment on how the body was discovered or confirm if it was, indeed, buried out in the woods behind the church on Broward Road. A tipster originally led police to that scene. Someone called and said a suspicious van had been parked there earlier that Saturday morning.
Perrywinkle still cannot believe her Cherish is gone. She said she wishes she could go back and change what happened that Friday night. She said she had a conversation with Cherish a week before her disappearance about never leaving any store with a stranger. As a mother, she said she talked with Cherish several times about all the tricks strangers could use to steal children, like looking for a puppy or offering them candy. She never thought it would actually happen.
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First Coast News