CLEARWATER — On March 12, 2011, 35-year-old police cadet Kelly Rothwell met up with her friend Donna Scharrett at a Chili’s in Clearwater.
They talked about how she was going to her Indian Rocks Beach apartment to break up with her longtime, live-in boyfriend David Perry, how she was going to pick up keys to a new place that night, then meet some friends from the police academy.
It was 3:30 p.m. when the two friends said their goodbyes.
It was the last time anyone saw Kelly Rothwell.
Eight years later, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is still searching for answers in Rothwell’s case. She has long been presumed dead and Perry remains the only suspect, though no files have been charged.
“Kelly Rothwell is dead and her body is out there, dumped like a piece of trash. She doesn’t deserve that,” Scharrett told the Tampa Bay Times in 2012, “The only thing I hope for — from Day 1 — is that we find Kelly’s remains and get them back to her mother.”
Despite Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri noting Perry’s actions fueled investigators’ suspicions, there hasn’t been enough evidence to connect him to the crime.
Perry, now 55, fled to New York — where he once worked as a corrections officer — on the same night of Rothwell’s disappearance. Neighbors told detectives they’d heard thrashing and banging in Rothwell and Perry’s apartment, followed by vacuuming the day she disappeared. When detectives searched it the next day, it was “neat as a pin,” a Sheriff’s Office spokesman said at the time.
Rothwell’s 2007 Subaru Outback was found parked two miles from her home with her wallet and purse missing and her police academy binder was found in a dumpster.
Detective went to Elmira, N.Y., to question Perry in 2011 and said he tried to flee when he spotted them. The Sheriff’s Office said he continues to be uncooperative and remains the main suspect in the case. Perry is currently on parole in New York after serving more than three years of a four- to 12-year prison sentence for unrelated crimes, records from the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision show.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, as well as Rothwell’s family and friends, have continued to search for resolution and closure.
“We just need that resolution,” Scharrett told the Times on the third anniversary of Rothwell’s disappearance. “It’s a respect. It’s an honor for a human being.”
The Sheriff’s Office asks anyone who might have information about the case to contact detective Chris Lyons of the Cold Case Unit at (727) 582-6207 or by e-mail at [email protected]
Contact Daniel Figueroa IV at [email protected] Follow @danuscripts.