ZEPHYRHILLS — Krystal Carroll peered through the windows. Detectives wouldn't let her go inside, not that she wanted to. It might be too gruesome.
The man she used to love lived here — Stephen Perry, 56, a quiet man content reading his books and watching British comedies and who was, decades ago, somewhat famous. Children of the 1980s grew up spending Saturday mornings watching a show he wrote for — Thundercats.
Now Perry was missing, and possibly murdered.
Last Sunday, detectives came to Carroll's house and told her Perry's van had been found at a Quality Inn in Tampa off Bearss Avenue and Interstate 75, a common place for dumping cars since it's so close to the highway. The van had been there for days until a guest complained to management about the smell. When a staff member went out to the parking lot and opened the door the stench was overwhelming.
They called 911.
Near the van, deputies found a severed body part.
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The van led investigators to Carroll — Perry's ex-girlfriend and mother of his 5-year-old son — and to Perry's house on Eighth Avenue in Zephyrhills.
The house was ransacked, authorities said. Carroll said detectives asked her to come because her family owns the house. She peeked through the window into Perry's room. The bed had been stripped, VHS tapes scattered on the floor. The next window was her son's room. She saw a quilt her grandmother made for him — blue and green, one side with bears and deer and ducks, the other with cars and storybook pages. It had been doused with bleach and stepped on, a footprint still visible.
After Carroll, 26, moved out last year, Perry got two roommates — James and Roxanne Davis, a married couple with lengthy criminal histories. James Davis, 45, served three stints in prison on convictions such as robbery with a deadly weapon and kidnapping. His wife, 49, was a fugitive from the Florida Department of Corrections for skipping out on her felony probation for burglary and grand theft.
Perry and Carroll do not have criminal records in Florida.
At first, authorities reported Perry and the Davis couple as missing. Roxanne and James Davis were found in Dade City Friday and arrested on unrelated charges — drugs for James and violating probation for Roxanne. Both are being held at the Pasco County Jail.
Capt. Robert McKinney of the Zephyrhills Police Department said James and Roxanne Davis are people of interest in the disappearance — and possible murder — of Perry.
McKinney said only one human body part has been found and would not say what type or if it was Perry's.
McKinney said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is analyzing the body part and other evidence. He hopes to have results next week.
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Carroll and Perry had a verbal agreement for joint custody, but Carroll didn't like their son staying at the house with those strangers.
"They're my friends," Perry would tell her.
Last year, he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Perry wrote to friends pleading for money.
"We are very, very destitute …hungry, eating at churches once a day, can't put gas in the car," he wrote on the message board of thundercatslair.org.
A Los Angeles-based charity called Hero Initiative helped him, according to the Orlando Sentinel, which published a story about Perry in March when he signed autographs at MegaCon. The article said Perry was also one of the original creators for the TV show SilverHawks and that he wrote for Marvel Comics.
"Things looked so bleak a year ago, and now I'm back on my feet, at least for now," Perry said in the story. He said he felt hope and started writing again.
In April, Carroll picked up Perry at the hospital after he had seven tumors removed. Doctors told him his cancer was terminal, Carroll said. The last time she saw Perry was in late April.
"I just want to spend as much time with my son as I can," he told her.
Saturday, Carroll talked of Perry in the past tense. She would not say what detectives told her, as she doesn't want to hurt the case.
But she did say her son "knows that Daddy is in heaven."
"So I'll never see him again?" her son said.
She wept. She didn't know what to say.
Times researcher Carolyn Edds and reporter Jamal Thalji contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.