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Cherish Perrywinkle Memorial

Hundreds of people gathered at a Jacksonville church last night to celebrate the life of Cherish Perrywinkle. The 8-year-old was abducted from a Walmart Friday night and as Karen Feagins reports, the prayer service was held near where the child’s body was found.

Highlands Baptist Church has become a gathering place for a community in mourning. The sidewalk outside is covered with stuffed animals, balloons, and handwritten notes left as a memorial for Cherish. And Sunday night the pews of the church were filled as pastor Art Taylor told the crowd Cherish had gone from tragedy to triumph in Heaven.As the prayer service moved outside, three of Cherish’s Sunday School friends led those gathered in song, as the young girl’s family-- her mother, stepfather and two sisters sat nearby wearing shirts with a giant photograph of Charish on the front.

Marcus Williams runs the children’s ministry at Paxon Revival Center, where Cherish went to church and says, though she was only 8-years-old, she had a maternal instinct.

"All I can describe is a mother of the kids... she was one of those people that kept the kids in line when she had younger ones younger than her...keeping them active, keeping them focuses...so she will be missed", Williams said.

Others who knew Cherish described her as an appreciative and helpful child who liked to draw and play dress up.

Some of those who came to pray didn’t know the family at all. Lisa Carter lives right around the corner, and brought an angel figurine which she pinned to the cross outside the church.

"My mom and I came just to be with other people and support the family", Carter said. "God help us, you know, it could be any of our children.”

The man accused of kidnapping and murdering of Cherish Perrywinkle, Donald James Smith, has pleaded not guilty to the crimes. He has been denied bond and remains in the Duval County Jail.