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A young life violently cut short and a long-awaited trial

Cherish Perrywinkle was only 8 years old when her life was cut short. In 2013, police say she crossed paths with a serial sex offender. Donald J. Smith, who had been in and out of jail for preying on children, is now behind bars. He's accused of kidnapping, raping and killing Perrywinkle before dumping her body in a creek. Nearly five years later, his death penalty trial starts on Monday.

Melissa Guz

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Published: 2/5/2018 10:44:58 AM
Updated: 6:45 PM EST February 5, 2018
Photo of Cherish Perrywinkle released by FDLE during an Amber Alert. Photo: FDLE.

She had big eyes and a smile that was contagious. Her family said she was full of life, full of love and full of smiles. Cherish Perrywinkle was only 8 years old and in the second grade when her life was cut short in 2013. The man accused of kidnapping, raping and killing her: Donald J. Smith, a serial sex offender.

"He was scoping for a child," Rayne Perrywinkle, Cherish's mom, told First Coast News in 2013. "If it wasn't my child, it would have been someone else."

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