Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Suspect Wanted to Be on Death Row; It Seemed a Safer Place to Man Who Is Accused of Raping, Killing Cherish

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Suspect Wanted to Be on Death Row; It Seemed a Safer Place to Man Who Is Accused of Raping, Killing Cherish

Article excerpt

Byline: Larry Hannan

Prosecutors want to execute Donald James Smith for the rape and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle. According to newly released police reports, that is something Smith might welcome.

Thursday the State Attorney's Office released 189 pages of police reports detailing what dozens of officers did during the search for Cherish and the eventual arrest of Smith. The documents were requested by The Florida Times-Union under public records laws.

Smith was arrested June 22. A few days later when he was brought into a police interview room to photograph bruising on his body, a police officer asked him if there was anything he needed. Smith asked police to call his mother to hire Ann Finnell, a prominent defense attorney.

But while walking back to his cell, Smith changed his mind.

"Tell my mother don't call Ann Finnell," Smith said. "They're going to kill me anyway. There's no sense spending the money."

Smith's mother also visited him in jail July 19. Police recorded the meeting, and Smith told his mother he couldn't go to prison because he knew he would be raped and murdered there.

He talked about how if he was on Death Row, his death would be "simple, happy and peaceful."

Death Row inmates are also segregated from the regular prisoner population, meaning Smith wouldn't have to fear reprisal from as many people.

Smith, 57, is accused of befriending Rayne Perrywinkle and her young children at the Dollar General store on June 21 and convincing them all to go to Walmart in his van after, offering to buy them clothes and food.

Perrywinkle told police that about 11 p.m. Smith offered to buy the family hamburgers at the McDonald's inside the Walmart on Lem Turner Road. Perrywinkle let her daughter go with him. They did not return.

Cherish's body was found near a creek off Broward Road. Police found her wedged underneath an old tree that had fallen in the grassy marsh area of the creek. …

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