Kelly Rothwell

Kelly Rothwell
Much Loved Sister, Daughter, Friend

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Missing an Angel; Kelly Rothwell’s Family and Close Friends Speak

By Leigh Clifton

It’s been three years, three long years since St. Pete Police cadet Kelly Rothwell went home to break up with her then- boyfriend, David Perry, and was never seen again. Three years since her family and close friends have heard her cheerful voice, seen her wide, infectious smile or felt her comforting, serene presence
Today I want to write about Kelly Rothwell the person; I was privileged to speak to several of Kelly’s closest friends and wanted people to get to know the Kelly that they knew, the Kelly that they remember, with joy and heartache, fondness and laughter and always, ALWAYS with love….. Some spoke to me by phone, some by text and some via FaceBook message. But all had one common thread; Kelly had profoundly touched their lives in immeasurable ways.. She was just that kind of girl…

Erin Hansel has known Kelly since they were in 5 year old kindergarten students together at St. Michaels the Archangels School in Baltimore, Maryland, where Kelly grew up.  She and Kelly spent a lot of time together and their mothers were friends. She remembers spending the night at Kelly’s house in her basement bedroom, playing records and giggling about stuff.  She and Kelly also took pottery classes together at Gardenville  Rec Center.
“I remember her having a Basset hound; they are the ones with the flappy ears that howl, right?” Erin wrote. (Nancy Rothwell told me the dog’s name was Duke.)  Erin also remembers sailing with Kelly and her dad. “She was in heaven out on the water…”

Another one of Kelly’s childhood friends, Janet, told me that she and Kelly used to skate in the roller rink shows at the Gardenville Rec Center in Baltimore.
“When the skaters would perform for each other during the cast party, the members of the group would sometimes exchange costumes with the boys and then skate to their group songs. We all enjoyed that and so did the kids” Janet wrote me. “She was a treasure, a very sweet person…”

Jen Belcastro went to high school with Kelly in the 90’s in Baltimore. She actually knew Kelly’s three sisters better, as Kelly was a few years older than she was.
“What I remember most about Kelly was that she was a free spirit type, a nature lover with a kind heart. A total hippie in high school.. I looked up to her spirit and style.  I think of her often.”

So many of Kelly’s friend’s remembrances run along the same theme… she touched their lives with her kindness and grace.

Melissa Clemons Johnson wrote “Kelly and I went to high school together in Maryland. What I remember most about her was her smile, her warmth, her presence and her self-confidence. She was a very caring person about everyone and everything.  She would have done anything to help you out. She is very missed in all ways but most of all I miss her smile… that’s the part that I miss the most.”

Kelly’s dad, Tom Rothwell  told me the story of taking Kelly and her sisters on his 24 ft boat the “Two-Rific-Too.” Tom had named the boat after seeing a bumper stick about twins (Kelly’s sisters Lindsay and Lauren are fraternal twins) after the girls were born. As a member and officer at the GlenMar Sailing Association in Middle River on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, Tom raced competitively for years and his name is on the High Point perpetual racing trophy,  something he’s won 4 times. When Kelly was little, Tom would sail with her and her sisters to Fairlee Creek on the Eastern Shore of Maryland where a famous Corn Roast was held every year. The Glenmar Sailing Association would supply between 10 and 15 bushels of corn and the charcoal.  Sailors would bring burgers and hotdogs to roast on the fires.
“We would all of us raft up and then spend the night on the boat. The food was great and the people all enjoyed it. In the morning, I would start cooking bacon and eggs… everyone would wake up to the smell of bacon and show up for breakfast! There was always well-over 100 people at these roasts.”
Tom just recently gave the Two-Rific-Too away; it had been sitting in his yard for a while.
“I’ve dealt with Kelly’s loss; I’ve done my crying. I have great memories of taking her sailing as a little kid. That’s what I hold onto.”

Nancy Rothwell, Kelly’s mother, was just grateful to all of Kelly’s friends that gave me remembrances of her.
“It’s wonderful that so many of Kelly’s friends have such fond memories of her,” Nancy spoke through her tears. “I keep her in my heart and I pray for her every day. I try to keep busy but she is always near me. I miss her and love her so very much…Kelly was an amazing young woman who touched the lives of so many people. She had such a passion for life and was such an inspiration to all. Kelly accomplished so much in her abbreviated life and that is a life to be celebrated, not mourned."

In a lighter moment, Nancy recalled Kelly’s 1972 Yellow VW beetle.
“I remember she had flower stickers all over it,” she chuckled. “She was a hippie girl, through and through.”

There are so many people who knew Kelly so well; I tried to contact as many as possible. There are quite a few of Kelly’s friends that live in Colorado, where Kelly lived for a while when she attended Adams State College. One of her best friends there was Amy Gray from Alamosa, Colorado, who spoke to me earlier today and had wonderful memories of her friendship with Kelly.
“I first met Kelly in chemistry class at Adams State College; I was majoring in biology and she was geology major I think. I was instantly drawn to her; her smile could light up a room. She was so intelligent, she taught me a lot about the origins of rocks and the use of light to determine what types of materials the rocks were comprised of.”
Amy laughed as she recalled Kelly’s yellow VW bug. Kelly and her father Tom had driven it out to Colorado.
“She named it Putt-Putt,” she chuckled. “She also used to say Mary Land, instead of Maryland; that used to crack me up so much!”
Amy is still so incredibly saddened by the loss of her friend. She was one of several close friends from Alamosa.
“Kelly was magical, she was a jewel. One year she dressed up as a ladybug for Halloween… she was just so much fun! She loved all things and all people. And her laugh!! She had this wonderful laugh that instantly enveloped you and made you feel absolute love. It was really distinctive. We all just fell in love with her. She was just pure magic.”
Amy also said that Kelly was the consummate hippy.  She was always tooling around town in Putt-Putt; she had pasted big flower stickers all over the car.
“She was so mellow, so cool. Her favorite song was “Wildflowers”, by Tom Petty.  If you listen to the words, you will understand.”
Amy said that the 12th is a tough day for her. Her son was born on the 10th of March and says that there is sadness and joy at the same time around this time of year.
“I just can’t believe that she’s no longer on this earth. On the one year anniversary of her “disappearance” a bunch of us from Alamosa went up to Navaho Lake. We did a prayer circle and had a remembrance ceremony in her honor. It’s just so incredibly sad that someone so beautiful would be taken from us. It’s almost as if she was too good, too pure of heart to last in this lifetime. I think of Kelly and her family every day and I pray that they hopefully find some peace. Kelly was just magic…. Just magic…”

Finally, Kelly’s sister Lauren spoke of Kelly and effect she had on her life.
“To be honest… No one knows for sure what will come of this. We can only hope that she is found and justice is served. But I do know, for sure, that I think of her every single day. Good things and bad. And I’m so thankful for the influence she’s had on my life. Her departure did not end our relationship. She will always be my sister and that love never dies.”

There are several others of Kelly Rothwell’s friends that couldn't get back to me in time for this publication. I hope that they read these remembrances and comment on the blog, using their names and how they knew Kelly. It’s a wonderful tribute to this woman, who I never had the honor of knowing, that SO many people were touched by Kelly’s heart.

 I leave you with this last thought.. the words from Wildflowers by Tom Petty. They truly do sum up the essence of Kelly’s spirit…

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
Sail away, kill off the hours
You belong somewhere you feel free

Run away, find you a lover
Go away, somewhere all bright and new
I have seen no other
Who compares with you

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
You belong with your love on your arm
You belong somewhere you feel free

Run away, go find a lover
Run away, let your heart be your guide
You deserve the deepest of cover
You belong in that home by and by

You belong among the Wildflowers
You belong somewhere close to me
Far away from your trouble and worry
You belong somewhere you feel free
You belong somewhere you feel free…..


  1. Awesome! I haven't heard that song in ages... Remarkable... Thanks so much Leigh, for all your hard work and tireless dedication to her, the family, and all of us :) Amy

  2. I believe that angels walk this earth among us and Kelly was without a doubt, one of them. The last time I saw her we were seventeen years old. We rode the bus home from Ocean City, MD together after spending a week at the beach for Senior Week. We had so much fun that week. We had just graduated from high school and had our entire lives ahead of us. I never could have imagined back then that the ride home on that bus would be the last time I would ever see her. As our twenty year high school reunion approaches this year, I am pretty sure I speak for everyone in our graduating class when I say that Kelly was loved by everyone and is greatly missed. The above blog post could not describe her personality more accurately. She was a beautiful person inside and out. I pray that one day her family is able to find closure from this devastating loss. God bless you Kelly you are loved by many and truly one of a kind!!



David Perry mug shot