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Mystery over Pinellas cadet's disappearance deepens; boyfriend still isn't talking

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — It's been two weeks since anyone has seen 35-year-old police cadet Kelly Rothwell.

Detectives with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office say tips have poured in, but they still haven't talked to the person they believe is an integral piece of the puzzle: Rothwell's live-in boyfriend, David Perry, 46.

Perry abruptly left and went to Elmira, N.Y., the same weekend Rothwell disappeared. He has refused to cooperate with the Sheriff's Office's investigation.

Authorities have not named Perry as a suspect or person of interest in the case. But they said the longer Rothwell is missing, the more likely she is in danger.

"As this goes forward there's the possibility eventually that this may turn into a homicide investigation," said Detective Amy Plourde on Friday.

Rothwell was last seen about 3:30 p.m. March 12 leaving the Chili's at 25987 U.S. 19 N in Clearwater. She'd just told her friend, Donna Scharrett, she planned to break it off with Perry. The couple had been having problems, friends said.

Later that night, Rothwell failed to meet friends as planned.

Downstairs neighbors reported hearing a commotion coming from the condo she and Perry shared at 2708 Gulf Blvd.

When authorities went to check on Rothwell, they found the place empty.

The next day, Rothwell didn't show up for her class at the Police Academy at the St. Petersburg College Allstate Center, where she enrolled in November. She also missed an interview with the Largo Police Department.

Perry, a retired New York corrections officer, has had an attorney give New York investigators a limited three-hour timeline of the day Rothwell disappeared. He also surrendered his vehicle to be searched, Pinellas Detective Michael Bailey said.

"Obviously we'd love to speak to him," Bailey said. "We can't make him come in and talk, but why wouldn't he want to if he had nothing to hide?"

The case has attracted national attention.

CNN's Nancy Grace featured the story on her Headline News show earlier this week. On the program, family members told the host they believe Rothwell is dead.

"I believe that given the amount of time that it's been since anyone's heard from her, and the personality that she had, the kind of person that she was. … It's kind of hard to continue having hope that we're going to get good news anytime soon," sister Kristen Rothwell told Grace.

Family members declined to comment Friday.

Detectives say they aren't giving up even if they don't speak to Perry.

"The investigation is moving forward with or without him," Bailey said.

Times staff writer Jamal Thalji contributed to this report.

>>Fast facts

Got information?

Anyone with information about Kelly Rothwell is asked to call the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Robbery Homicide Unit at (727) 582-6200. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call CrimeStoppers toll-free at 1-800-873-8477 or submit tips online at www.Crime

Mystery over Pinellas cadet's disappearance deepens; boyfriend still isn't talking 03/25/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 25, 2011 10:07pm]
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