ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — A former New York prison guard whose police-recruit girlfriend disappeared in Florida in March has been charged with faking an injury so he could retire on disability, state police said Friday.
Authorities arrested David Perry, 46, late Thursday night for an unspecified traffic violation in Allegany County, about 80 miles west of his home in Elmira.
Charged with insurance fraud, grand larceny and fraudulent insurance practices, Perry was accused of fabricating an injury while working in the Elmira jail in 2003, state Trooper Mark O’Donnell said.
Authorities in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., have been seeking to question Perry about the disappearance of 35-year-old Kelly Rothwell, a police academy recruit. The two were living in Rothwell’s condo when she disappeared. Perry moved back to Elmira soon after.
Perry was being held without bail in Broome County Jail in Binghamton, the county in central New York where a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was arraigned in a town court outside Binghamton, and a not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf. If convicted, he could be placed on probation or draw a maximum sentence of five to 15 years in prison.
His lawyer, Thomas Reilly, said Perry’s worker’s compensation and Social Security claims for a back injury were investigated without fault years ago. He called the arrest a police ploy.
“I never heard of any allegations of fraud or dissembling, and I’m awful suspicious of this stuff coming up now,” he said. “Now they find people who say he faked his injury, supposedly. Duh, what a surprise. I think this is just to try and make him talk.”
Perry has refused to take a DNA test in the Rothwell investigation or even talk to authorities beyond having his lawyer give them a loose timeline of the night she disappeared. His attorney reiterated Friday that Perry has the right not to talk to authorities and that Perry got upset when investigators recently asked him for a DNA sample.
“My sense is, from the beginning, they have assumed he did something he shouldn’t have done and they have approached him that way, which is a turnoff,” Reilly said.
According to New York Department of Corrections records, Perry was hired in 1986, went on sick leave in 2004 and never returned to duty. He retired in 2005.
On March 12, Rothwell told a close friend over lunch that she was going to break up with Perry. The normally sunny Rothwell was becoming increasingly disturbed at his possessive behavior, friend Donna Scharrett said, and had decided to move out of the condo.
She hasn’t been seen in almost two months. Detectives, family and friends grimly concede there’s a good chance she is dead.
Associated Press writer Chris Carola in Albany, N.Y., contributed to this report.