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Roommate arrested in slaying of comic book writer

ZEPHYRHILLS — Authorities have not found all the remains of Stephen Perry, a comic book author best known as a writer for the 1980s Thundercats cartoon series.

His arm was found in May in a Tampa motel Dumpster. His torso turned up last month off a road in central Pasco's Angus Valley.

The grisly murder drew the efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies over more than 50 days, but detectives say a simple find at Perry's home led them to the killer:

Two bottles of bleach.

Perry's roommate, James William Davis, bought the 1-gallon bottles May 13 at the Zephyrhills Home Depot, according to court documents.

Investigators believe the bleach was "used to clean up the scene of the murder and conceal the crime scene," according to a search warrant obtained for Perry's house on Eighth Avenue. Police also got a warrant to obtain a DNA sample from Davis.

Davis, 45, was originally declared a "person of interest" in the case, and was arrested May 21 on unrelated drug charges.

On Wednesday, Zephyrhills police added a charge of first-degree murder.

Zephyrhills police Capt. Robert McKinney would not elaborate on what other forensic evidence helped authorities build their case against Davis. More evidence may yield other suspects — and turn up a more concrete motive, McKinney said.

"Drugs and monetary remuneration are in consideration," he said, referring to the possible motive.

Davis' wife, Roxanne, 49, who was also arrested in the days after Perry's disappearance on unrelated charges, has not been ruled out as a suspect, McKinney said.

Perry, 56, was one of the original writers and creators of the Thundercats and SilverHawks television shows in the 1980s, and he penned numerous comic books and science-fiction stories. He lived in Zephyrhills, where friends say he doted on his 5-year-old son.

Perry went missing in May. His van was found abandoned May 16 at a Quality Inn off Bearss Avenue in Tampa, where authorities found the severed arm. Officers went to Perry's home and discovered it had been ransacked.

In a jailhouse interview shortly after his arrest in May, James Davis told the Times that he and his wife moved in with Perry around Christmas to help him pay his bills.

Perry was unemployed and battling bladder cancer, although he still tried to craft comic books. Davis said Perry was abusing prescription drugs.

"I liked him at first," Davis said in the May 24 interview. "But he was hooked on drugs, bad. That's the reason he let me in."

Perry's friends have sharply disputed that description, saying Perry was taking prescribed medication for an excruciating illness. He received support from The Hero Initiative, a Los Angeles-based charity that helps comic book artists who have fallen on tough times.

Davis told the Times he had nothing to do with Perry's disappearance or death. He said he last saw Perry at a flea market, researching material for a new comic book.

When he came by Perry's home a few days later and saw police there, Davis fled to a relative's home.

Davis, who has served three stints in prison for robbery and kidnapping, said he feared he would be arrested for failing to appear in court on a charge he drove without a license.

Times staff writer Molly Moorhead contributed to this report.

Roommate arrested in slaying of comic book writer 07/07/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 7, 2010 10:20pm]
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