Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Police cadets remember missing classmate

ST. PETERSBURG — On the day before their graduation Wednesday, 32 recruits in the St. Petersburg College police academy's 177th class welcomed a veteran Pinellas County sheriff's detective into their classroom.

Detective Michael Bailey was there to answer questions about the 33rd cadet in the class, Kelly Rothwell, who has been missing since March 12.

The recruits who bonded with Rothwell over five months wanted to know the truth. Bailey didn't want to rush to judgment. He also didn't want to give false hope.

So he told them what he told Rothwell's family: "I'm investigating this like it's a homicide."

Rothwell, 35, was last seen about 3:30 p.m. March 12 leaving a Chili's in Clearwater, detectives said.

She'd just told her friend Donna Scharrett of Palm Harbor that she planned to break it off with her live-in boyfriend, David Perry, 46.

Sheriff's detectives say tips have poured in, but they still haven't talked to Perry, who moved back to Elmira, N.Y., the same weekend Rothwell disappeared. Perry has refused to cooperate with the investigation.

The graduation was in the auditorium at St. Petersburg College's Allstate Center. A bouquet of sunflowers held a seat for Rothwell.

On the stage sat the chiefs of many Tampa Bay law enforcement agencies. In the packed audience were Rothwell's twin sisters from her native Maryland.

Theirs was a special class, said recruit Louis Buck, who gave the invocation. They made their decision to join as two Tampa police officers were killed. They started the year with the shooting deaths of two Miami-Dade officers. Then they saw St. Petersburg lose three of its own in short order.

Then they lost a friend.

"This tragedy gave us a different perspective, not only on life, but also to help us appreciate each other a little more," Buck said.

In class, one of Rothwell's nicknames was "mom." She organized fundraisers for the fallen officers, and was a team leader in her class.

Her nature was unassuming and a little shy. She was a bit intimidated when first picking up a 9mm Glock, said L.P. Miller, the chief firearms instructor at the academy.

But she blossomed under pressure.

"She was one of my better shooters in the class," Miller said.

Friends saw a transformation as she went through the academy.

"It was almost like there was a cement rod that went through her spine and she just stood so tall," said Scharrett, the best friend.

Afterward, the cadets lit white candles in the parking lot and lay a badge-shaped marble plaque and a bouquet of bright orange gerber daisies beneath a tree.

The inscription on the plaque ends: "We won't stop looking for you."

>>FAST FACTS

Help find Rothwell

Officials are asking anyone with information about Kelly Rothwell to call the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office robbery homicide unit at (727) 582-6200. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-873-8477 or submit tips online at www.Crime

StoppersOfPinellas.org.

Police cadets remember missing classmate 04/13/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 11:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Police plan community meeting as search for Seminole Heights killer continues

    Crime

    TAMPA — With people in Seminole Heights on edge following three related shooting deaths on their streets, police have planned a community meeting for Monday.

    The three Seminole Heights victims, from left: Benjamin Edward Mitchell, 22; Monica Caridad Hoffa, 32; and Anthony Naiboa, 20. [Facebook, family photos]
  2. Bucs-Bills: Tampa Bay's fatal habit of falling behind

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Okay, all you road scholars, why do the Bucs keep falling behind in games not played at Raymond James Stadium?

    Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) recovers a fumble during the first half of an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017.
  3. Hudson man, 19, killed by hit-and-run driver while walking in street, FHP says

    Accidents

    A 19-year-old Hudson man walking in the street Friday night was struck and killed by a pickup truck that fled the scene, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

  4. Road Ranger hurt after truck catches fire in crash at I-275, Busch

    Blogs

    TAMPA — A Road Ranger was seriously injured when a drunk driver ran into the back of his truck on Interstate 275 and both vehicles burst into flame, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

    Brian Nelson Barrett, 42, of Wimauma, was headed north on I-275 in his Road Ranger truck Saturday morning 10/21/17 when a car hit him from behind, causing both vehicles to erupt in flames.
  5. Nicked-up Lightning vs. Penguins tonight

    Blogs