Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Friends, Strangers Come to Honor Cherish, Comfort Family; Mourners - Many Who Didn't Know the Perrywinkles - Show Support at Viewing

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Friends, Strangers Come to Honor Cherish, Comfort Family; Mourners - Many Who Didn't Know the Perrywinkles - Show Support at Viewing

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Soergel

Bessie Franklin doesn't know the grieving family, but still she went straight from work in Mandarin and drove across town to the Northside to attend the viewing held Thursday for Cherish Perrywinkle, the 8-year-old girl abducted and murdered last week.

Franklin was still wearing her nurse's scrubs: She's a hospice nurse at Northeast Florida Community Hospice. So she's used to people dying.

But not like this.

At hospice, "death is anticipated," Franklin said. "This though ..."

Her words trailed off. What more could she say?

Many at the viewing at Paxon Revival Center Church, where Cherish often came to children's services, did not know the Perrywinkles. But they came to show their support, in a steady stream that filed past the small coffin by the altar where Cherish lay in a sparkly pink dress.

"My heart goes out to the family," said Wendy Perry, still dabbing at tears in the parking lot. "This should never happen to any child."

The hearse holding the small coffin showed up at 4:20 p.m. Two men wheeled it into the church's lobby past a somber crowd, then took it into the sanctuary. Cherish's mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, arrived about 15 minutes later, being supported on the arms of two women, one of them her best friend, Cindy Harris. Her daughters Destiny, 5, and Nevaeh, 3, wore matching dresses with pink sashes.

Perrywinkle stumbled in the lobby, and when she approached her daughter's coffin, she cried out. Pastor Steve Dobbs sprinted down the carpeted aisle toward her.

As the viewing began at 5, two screens showed a slide show of Cherish's life: playing with a cat, hugging her sisters, posing with family. Perrywinkle left around 7 p.m., so Cherish's father, Billy Jarreau, could see his daughter alone, Harris said.

Jarreau, who lives in San Diego, had been involved in a long custody battle with Cherish's mother. He arrived at the church around 8, when the viewing was scheduled to end. …

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