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Inside the investigation: A promise of a dress, McDonald's led to murder

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Updated: 6/24/2013 12:24 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Police say a mother of a child found dead was first lured to an area Walmart by a stranger offering to buy her a dress.

The stranger, Donald James Smith, is now charged with killing her daughter, 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle.

[Special coverage: Remembering Cherish]

According to a report obtained by Action News, the girl's mother first met the suspect at a Dollar General store on Edgewood Avenue at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

He went by the name of Don.

Detectives said Don initiated a conversation with the girl's mother, asking her if she wanted a dress.

The suspect, according to the report, said his wife had a $100 gift card for Walmart but that the girl's mother would have to wait until the suspect's wife arrived to use it.

They waited at the Dollar General store but the so-called wife never arrived.

The suspect then told the girl's mother they could meet his wife at Walmart on Lem Turner Road.

Police said the woman and her children got into the suspect's vehicle and drove to Walmart.

They started shopping at Walmart. A short time later, the suspect walked away from the mother, advising her he was going to McDonald's to get something to eat.

Police say the little girl followed. The two walked out of the store and into a white older style van at 10:41 p.m.

The girl's mother told police she didn't know the man prior to the incident.

Police dispatched a helicopter, and Walmart provided surveillance video of Smith and Charish leaving the store.

A witness told police she saw a white van that matched the description of Smith's van parked behind a church in the 10400 block of Rutgers Road. As officers responded to that area, they saw Smith's van driving away.

He was pulled over and detained. His clothing matched what was shown on Walmart's video, according to the police report. His clothing was dirty and soaked with water.

Smith is scheduled to be in court Sunday morning.
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