Sheriff praises citizen help in Cherish Perrywinkle case

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Sheriff John Rutherford said citizens are a big help in solving cases, with three people recognized for their involvement in the high-profile Cherish Perrywinkle murder investigation.

In June, the eight-year-old was found dead in the woods near a church on Rutgers Road. Investigators say she was abducted while with her mother at a Northside Walmart. A manhunt combined with an Amber Alert ended in the arrest of Donald Smith.

On Thursday during monthly a JSO awards ceremony, Rutherford gave certificates of appreciation to three people including Brenda Fillingim, who provided information to investigators during the early stages of the investigation.

What police were looking for was a white van that they believe was involved in the alleged abduction.

"I saw the van. I went back to my home and found out what was going on then I went back and it (van) was gone," she said.

Reporter: You went to the substation and told the police?

"Two detectives followed me back down there," said Fillingim, who had been out that Saturday morning going to garage sales.

Her information helped lead police to where Perrywinkle's body was eventually found in the woods near the Highlands Baptist Church.

Two other people who helped with information, Jerome Bruton and Christina Howard, could not be present to accept their appreciation certificates.

Rutherford said people who get involved make a big difference in fighting crime. The sheriff told the audience for the awards ceremony that crime in Jacksonville is the lowest in 40 years.


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