A medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on eight-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle after she was abducted, raped and murdered became emotional and had to interrupt her testimony on Tuesday at the trial of the registered sex offender accused of the crime.
Jacksonville Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Valerie Rao told the court that Cherish sustained severe injuries all over her body from being strangled with a piece of clothing and raped.
Viewing photographs of her battered body in court on Tuesday, she became teary and unable to continue.
Jacksonville Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Valerie Rao fought back tears as she described how eight-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle was raped and murdered
Dr. Rao viewing the grisly photographs was unable to continue during her testimony
Meanwhile the defense asked the judge to declare mistrial because of Rao’s tearful display, but the judge refused
State Attorney Melissa Nelson, left, goes over photos of Cherish Perrywinkle’s autopsy with Duval County Medical Examiner Dr. Valerie Rao, right as she testified in Donald Smith’s trial, Tuesday in Jacksonville, Florida
Rao had to take a break after testifying about Cherish’s horrific injuries for 45 minutes
Donald Smith, 61, is on trial for allegedly kidnapping, raping and slaying Cherish in 2013
Donald Smith, 61, is charged with kidnapping, raping and murdering the girl, and faces a possible death sentence if convicted.
Smith allegedly lured her family to Walmart in June 2013 with promises to buy a McDonald’s meal and new clothing, then left with the girl. Security video showed her skipping out the door behind him. Cherish was never seen alive again.
During 45 minutes of testimony on Tuesday, which left jurors in tears and had them covering their eyes, Dr Rao listed the dozens of injuries Cherish had sustained during her final moments, including bruises and cuts on her knees and thighs.
The medical examiner said the child’s female anatomy was ‘totally distorted’ from the trauma of the rape, as First Coast News reporter Anne Schindler live-tweeted.
She estimated that it took the eight-year-old 3-5 minutes to die. As she was being strangled, her right eye began bleeding.
Cherish Perrywinkle was found brutally raped and murdered in a creek in June 2013 after Smith allegedly abducted her from a Florida mall
Items of clothing from Cherish Perrywinkle and Donald Smith collected by Duval County Medical Examiner Dr. Valerie Rao are displayed as they were being entered into evidence
Rao also revealed that Cherish had attempted to fight back and managed to inflict an injury on Smith’s penis after he allegedly attempted to force oral sex on her.
After Rao requested a break and the jury was led out of the courtroom, Smith’s defense asked the judge to declare a mistrial, arguing that the medical examiner’s emotional reaction on the stand could prejudice the jurors, reported News4Jax.
Judge Mallory Cooper denied the mistrial motion.
Also on Tuesday, State Attorney Melissa Nelson played for the jury secret recordings that were done in jail, and on which she said Smith could be heard bragging about his crime.
‘She had a lot for a white girl,’ the defendant could be heard telling another inmate on the tape, apparently referring to eight-year-old Cherish’s buttocks.
After the prosecution rested its case, the defense said it will not be calling any witnesses and also rested.
Closing arguments will be presented on Wednesday, after which the case will go to the jury for deliberations.