Police are searching for a Florida police cadet who disappeared after telling a friend she and her boyfriend were having "domestic issues."
Kelly Rothwell, 35, was last seen Saturday when she left a restaurant after meeting her friend, Donna Scharett. That same weekend, her live-in boyfriend, David Perry, abruptly left for New York. Perry, 46, is a retired corrections officer.
"He's elected not to discuss anything to do with this case or provide us any background," Pinellas County Detective Michael Bailey told ABC Affiliate WFTS.
Scharett met Rothwell at a Chili's restaurant Saturday afternoon. Rothwell, 35, was gushing about training at the Pinellas Police Academy in St. Petersburg, Fla. She'd recently decided to switch careers from working in human resources with Hilton Hotels to becoming a police officer.
"She was looking forward to big changes in her life…really looking forward to starting her career with the Pinellas County Sheriff's office," Scharett said. "She'd found her voice and that's one of the things she told me over lunch."
The two women also discussed Rothwell's boyfriend, Perry.
"They had their problems," Scharett, 46, said. "He was a very controlling person, very domineering and Kelly [Rothwell], up until joining the academy, she was very shy and introverted, very timid."
Rothwell and Perry met two and a half years ago when he was on vacation in Florida, Rothwell's sister said. Two months later, he'd moved from Elmira, New York to Rothwell's condo near Clearwater, Fla.
"We've only met him a handful of times. We've all had our suspicions about him, he seemed to be controlling," Lauren Rothwell said. "I'm pretty confident that he has everything to do with this. People just don' t leave when their girlfriend is missing."
Lauren Rothwell last spoke to her sister last Wednesday.Over the last few months, Lauren Rothwell said that her sister had become increasingly private.
Neighbors of Rothwell also describe her boyfriend, Perry, as domineering.
"When he was around, she would hardly say anything to anybody," Ken Williamson, a neighbor, said. "Dave had a personality where he'd be really nice and then turn on you in an instant and come at you like a tiger."
Rothwell and Perry lived above Williamson. The day Rothwell was last seen, Williamson said he and his wife heard loud noises coming from above them in the late hours of Saturday night.
"We heard loud thumping, banging like somebody threw something real hard a number of times...and then it stopped and the next day police were out here," he said.
Scharett, the friend that met Rothwell for lunch, called police on Sunday. Rothwell had made plans to meet friends at a bar the night before and never showed up, an out of character move.
"She never returned any calls and I just immediately got a sick feeling and that's when I called the Pinellas County Sheriff's office and asked them to do a house check. That was because of the domestic issues she'd shared with me," Scharett said.
Police found Rothwell's car outside a hotel two miles south of her Indian Rocks Beach home. Her purse and wallet were not in the car, police said.
The woman's family found out Monday that she was missing from a message the police left on her father's answering machine.
"Initially I was panicked," Lauren Rothwell said.
She called her sister's boyfriend, Perry.
"He of course [said], I don't know what happened to her. He said she had left to go over to a friends and never made it to a friend's house," Rothwell said. "I had a feeling that he was behind what was going on. I hung up."
Police have not identified Perry as a suspect in her disappearance, but they want to talk to him.
"He's a witness we'd like to speak with," Sgt. Thomas Nestor said. "We're trying to put together a timeline and last we knew she was leaving a restaurant and going home."