About a week ago, David Perry, the estranged boyfriend of a missing police cadet, was at a state police station in Elmira, N.Y., to fill out some paperwork regarding the release of his car in an unrelated case.
Two Pinellas Sheriff's investigators showed up, in yet another attempt to talk to Perry as to the cadet's whereabouts.
Perry's reaction June 6 was, in a word, bizarre, according to Pinellas Sheriff's Detective Michael Bailey, one of the two who wanted to talk to him.
"As soon as he saw us, he had a complete meltdown," Bailey said. He ran through, then out of, the police station. His knees and arms were shaking. He claimed he had a Constitutional right not to talk to the two Florida investigators.
"I just can't tell you how unnerved he was," Bailey said.
That reaction is one reason — but not the only one – that led Pinellas sheriff's investigators to announce today that they have labeled Perry, 47, a suspect in the disappearance of his former girlfriend, Kelly Rothwell, 35.
Another is that Perry canceled his gym membership the day before she vanished, telling someone at the gym the pair were headed for Hawaii. And there are other examples Bailey would not divulge.
Bailey conceded investigators have not culled enough evidence to charge Perry with any crime.
Perry has refused to answer any questions, either with or without his attorney present, said Bailey's colleague, Detective Amy Plourde. Even Perry's daughter has retained counsel.
"He's not even letting us speak for a minute, just to hear what we have to talk about," Plourde said. She said Perry assumes the worst, that detectives are going to "sit there and bombard him" with questions.
Rothwell was last seen March 12 in Clearwater by a friend, who told authorities Rothwell had planned to break up with Perry that day. Perry left Florida the next day for Elmira, where he had lived previously.
Rothwell, a police academy recruit at St. Petersburg College, was living in Indian Rocks Beach at the time of her disappearance.
Detectives said they have learned throughout the investigation from Rothwell's friends and family that she would not have vanished on her own accord.
Detectives have long requested Perry's cooperation, but he hasn't given it, the sheriff's office said. Investigators said they believe Perry is intentionally withholding information.
Perry's family members in Elmira have also been uncooperative, sometimes requesting they have an attorney present if they submit to questioning, investigators said.
In addition to Perry's behavior and his refusal to cooperate, sheriff's investigators find it suspicious that Perry began a relationship with another woman shortly after Rothwell disappeared.
Detectives have asked anyone with information to call homicide detectives Michael Bailey or Amy Plourde at (727) 582-6200.