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Sex offender charged with killing Florida girl, 8

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By The Associated Press
Sunday, June 23, 2013, 10:09 p.m.
 

JACKSONVILLE — A judge on Sunday denied bail to a registered sex offender accused of abducting and killing an 8-year-old Florida girl.

Donald James Smith of Jacksonville was charged on Saturday with murder and kidnapping in the death of Cherish Perrywinkle.

Authorities said Smith befriended the girl and her mother while they shopped at a dollar store on Friday night.

Smith took them to a Wal-Mart, where he offered to buy them clothes and hamburgers, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Instead of buying the snacks, Smith walked out of the store with the girl, the sheriff's office said. The girl's mother called 911 when she noticed they were missing.

A tip led investigators to the girl's body in the woods near a church on Saturday morning. Police arrested Smith after stopping his van on Interstate 95. Authorities have not said how Cherish died.

Smith's public defender, Fred Gazaleh, told The Florida Times-Union before the hearing that Smith didn't have a chance of getting bail.

Gazaleh did not immediately respond to messages left Sunday by The Associated Press.

Smith's next court appearance is scheduled July 16.

Authorities initially spelled the girl's name Charish Perriwinkle in an Amber Alert on Saturday, but later changed her last name to Perrywinkle. Victim's advocate Ann Dugger of the Justice Coalition said she spoke with the girl's mother, who said her daughter's name is Cherish Perrywinkle.

Smith did not immediately cooperate with investigators after his arrest, said Mike Williams, director of investigations at the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Smith has been a registered sex offender since a 1993 conviction in Duval County for attempted kidnapping and selling obscene materials. He has been arrested several times since then, most recently in 2009 on a charge of child abuse after making obscene phone calls to a 10-year-old girl, making verbal threats, and impersonating a social worker with the Florida Department of Children and Families who claimed to be investigating the girl's family.

Smith pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in that case and was released from jail May 31. He had just met with police Friday morning to comply with a state law that requires sex offenders to verify their address once a year.

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