Kelly was having a girls’ weekend with Donna, summoning the courage from her close friend to call off a long-term relationship. Kelly and her boyfriend, David Perry, had reached a tumultuous point. She was not happy and had told friends that his controlling ways were scaring her.
She had become empowered in recent months at the police academy, Donna says. “She was ready to stand up to him,” Donna says. “I offered to go with her that day, but she said no.”
Kelly knew the relationship was not healthy and was ready to stand up to Perry. In fact, that fateful weekend of March 12th, Kelly was on her way home to her Indian Rocks Beach condo to end things with Perry.
No one would ever see her again.
Perry, a former New York state prison guard, was the last person to see Kelly alive, detectives say. He is now also considered the prime suspect in her disappearance.
Detectives, along with national search group Cue Center for Missing Persons, have been searching for Kelly for nearly nine months. Dozens of volunteers have gone through ditches, parks, endless miles of beach, and her neighborhood, just to name a few sites.
Still, no big breaks.
Well, the tides are turning. Detectives just got a huge break in the case, their first solid lead. A woman saw Kelly’s story on 10 News when we reported that David Perry recently remarried. The woman says she recognized Perry instantly and called Pinellas detectives right away.
As is customary with all tips to law enforcement, the tipster has remained anonymous. The woman claims she saw Perry right around the time that Kelly went missing. She told detectives she remembers exactly when it was because her mother passed away that week.
Lead Pinellas detective on the case, Michael Bailey, tells 10 News, “I think for certain she saw this person. She’s saying it was David Perry, she’s seen his picture, obviously, in the media. She’s pretty certain that this was him. Yeah, I think it’s pretty credible.”
Detective Bailey has worked on this case from day one. He was thrilled to get the tip that someone out there knows something.
“Any time you get something on a case where you virtually have nothing, you always like to pursue that. Even if it’s just to renew interest in the case. Any time you get something like that, you want to pursue that, you just don’t know,” says Detective Bailey.
The woman who called detectives with the tip was walking her dog along Eagle Lake Park when she saw someone that she said was David Perry. She told detectives he hid behind a palm tree right after they locked eyes. At that second, she knew it was David Perry.
Detective Bailey describes how Perry was acting. “She said he was acting suspiciously. When she saw him, he looked startled. He concealed himself. She continued walking. It was probably 10 or 15 paces when she no longer saw him.”
So, the question remains: Did David Perry kill his girlfriend, Kelly Rothwell? Why was he acting so suspiciously in the park, which is not too far from their condo? Was he concealing a body or dumping her clothing?
Detectives just don’t know yet.
Detective Bailey says, “We kind of did a walk through to see if there were any depressions in the ground, to see if there was anything obviously concealed there, a body, a murder weapon, it could be something of significance, I just don’t know.”
In addition, Detective Bailey told us that every tip, no matter how small, always helps. It becomes part of laying the groundwork, he says, in the case for what detectives are now calling, most likely, the homicide case of Kelly Rothwell.
If you know anything about the case, please call Crime Stoppers of Pinellas County at 1-800-873-TIPS.
David Perry is currently out of jail on insurance fraud charges after being arrested over the summer for allegedly defrauding New York state, claiming that he had a worker’s comp injury. The state says that Perry took tens of thousands of dollars for a fake injury.