It's been four long years since St. Pete Police Cadet Kelly Rothwell went missing after going home after lunch with a friend on a Saturday afternoon to tell her then boyfriend David Perry that she was breaking up with him.
She was never heard from again.
Perry took off for his hometown of Elmira New York in a rush later that Saturday and has never answered questions about Kelly's disappearance, nor granted a police interview. Neighbors who lived below the couple reported hearing several loud thumps on their ceiling, then frenetic vacuuming before Perry left hurriedly. Three months later he married Melissa Walker, an Army Reservist he supposedly met on Craig's List, meeting her briefly in Hawaii to marry her, take her last name, then return to Elmira New York. Walker divorced Perry a year later, but not before defending him as a "sweet, kind and caring, thoughtful person."
Kelly was much more than a missing police cadet; she was a sister to Lauren, Lindsay and Kristen, daughter to Nancy and Tom, Aunt to Alex, Hollie and Hannah, ex-wife to Doug, and countless friend to so many... those who grew up and went to school with her in Maryland, those she worked with and was friends with in West Virginia and Colorado and the people whose lives she touched in Florida... Kelly had an impact on so many.
Today the Pinellas County Sheriff's office is no closer to finding Kelly than they were 4 years ago. A perfunctory search of the local area led to little clues and it always boggled everyone that there was not a more strident and thorough search done. After all, Kelly was one of their own, a fellow cadet, soon to be a graduate and out among her peers. But a breakfast held for her to raise money to pay for additional search and rescue efforts fell pathetically flat: and only one of her fellow cadets bothered to even show up.
I have and will always maintain that David Perry, laying in wait for Kelly to come home, killed her as she entered their shared beach-front condo and then, after a frantic cleaning of the condo including bleach and antiseptic chemicals, took Kelly's lifeless body, put her in a canvas sail bag, placed her in the trunk and took off WITH her body to Elmira, New York, his hometown.
Many people including local law enforcement here in Florida have denigrated this idea, theorizing that NO ONE would drive ALL the way to New York with a body in the trunk. But I think he did; he knew that if there was NO body, there was NO case, at least in Florida. And he was right. He was a former Corrections Officer at a prison, he knows the ropes, knew not to answer ANY questions and ran like a coward when approached by law enforcement. He went back to an area he knew very well, places where he had hunted and fished all his life. I believe Kelly is up there. I believe that she is somewhere on or near the Catherine Trail, a place that Perry was known to have frequented AFTER he moved back home. According to sources, he went there OFTEN.... Being a control freak and OCD sufferer, Perry likes to control every situation and this would be no different. He had a friend with a boat on Lake Seneca, it was his bailiwick and he KNEW that Florida law enforcement had neither the manpower nor the belief that he could ever do such a thing... drive with the body of the woman who was his 'soul-mate"... the "love of his life" etc etc.
I would bet the farm he did just that. And he's getting away with it.
But not TOTALLY away.. he sits in a jail cell at Clinton, in upstate New York, convicted on Work Comp related fraud charges in two different counties. Sadly although both convictions were a triumph for New York law enforcement, (who by the way, ALL think he killed Kelly and some believe that he brought he up there as well,) Perry received two sentences that were concurrent instead of consecutive. He has at least two years and maybe more before he is eligible for parole.
This is NOT enough time served for a psychopath that killed a beautiful, talented, spirited and loved woman named Kelly Rothwell. Who knows? I know that NO strain of conscience will suddenly make him confess; he has neither soul NOR conscience. He has a violent past, a history of abuse to family, wives and girlfriends. How poignant it is to me that Kelly wanted to make domestic violence a concentration in her law enforcement career.
So today we sadly commemorate another year gone by without Kelly Rothwell in this world. Her mother Nancy sent me this:
"On this day, March 12, the fourth anniversary of my beautiful daughter Kelly's disappearance, I weep in silence. Four long years of not being able to feel her warm embrace, not being able to have a mother/daughter chat on the phone, hear her adorable giggle or just catch up on what's going on. Kelly was a loving daughter, a caring sister and aunt and a devoted friend to many. She was always a radiant light bringing incredible joy and happiness to her family and friends. This world most definitely lost a wonderful person that day, but what gets me through this wrenching loss is that I know she is one of God's most precious angels... a quote from Rose Kennedy, a mother who suffered many losses in her lifetime-
'It has been said that 'time heals all wounds'... I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.' "
I heard a song today on the radio by James Blunt, called Carry You Home..I thought of Kelly through tears. I pray that her spirit is never forgotten.
"Carry You Home"