"I ignored the red flags," says wife of missing cadet's ex-boyfriend

7:44 PM, Jan 2, 2012   |    comments
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A photo of David Perry and Melissa Walker hiking in the mountains.

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - Bring up the subject of love to any woman and chances are you'll hear a common theme. Most ladies will admit that at one time or another they've fallen for the wrong guy. The heart often blocks out logic from your head.  Anyone will tell you love can be intoxicating when you fall hard for someone.

Just ask Melissa Marie Walker.

The 35-year-old fell in love with the man she thought she'd be with forever. Their love seemed genuine. It was everything Melissa has been hoping for her entire life.

Melissa fell for a former corrections officer from New York state. The two met online, as many modern couples do.  They found each other on the website Craigslist.

David Perry was charming, smart, witty and, most of all, catered to Melissa's every need. They seemed so compatible.

"If I wanted it, he wanted it. If I liked something, he liked something. I felt needed," Melissa told 10 News.

In fact, in a personal and intimate email, she described her love for her new husband. They met in the spring of 2011, and the relationship moved quickly.

"I felt cherished and loved unconditionally. My logic disappeared. I ignored the red flags. I wanted to believe what I felt. David Perry told me everything I wanted to hear."

In the beginning, Melissa thought everything was perfect. But, she admits, soon after things began to feel a bit "off" and strange.

Melissa told us, "I felt like I loved him early on. But, it also felt that...something wasn't quite right. You know, I mean, there were lies in the beginning."

There was an underlying dark secret, however, throughout their marriage. David Perry was accused of murdering his former girlfriend, missing police cadet Kelly Rothwell, back in March.

Kelly went home the weekend of March 12 to the Indian Rocks Beach condo that she shared with David Perry. She was going to break up with him. No one would ever see or hear from Kelly ever again.

David Perry has never been arrested, but he remains the prime suspect in the case. Dave, as his soon-to-be ex-wife calls him, told Melissa he had nothing to do with Kelly's disappearance.

Pinellas detectives say they were worried about Mellissa for months. They warned her,  hoping she would change her mind about her new husband, the man accused of being involved in Kelly's mysterious disappearance.

When asked if she was fearful that David Perry was responsible for Kelly Rothwell's death, Melissa paused for a moment and answered,  "Yes."

She added, "I always questioned it. I never, like, totally believed him. So, I should have walked away so long ago, you know?"

Melissa says she ignored the glaring red flags and headlines for months on end. But, she finally made her move. She felt so uneasy, so sick, that she filed for divorce just hours before New Year's Eve on December 30, 2011 at 3 p.m. Hawaii time, where she currently lives.

She admits, "I fell in love, and not just that, uh, it was like everything that I've dreamt about and wanted for so many years because he was just giving to me. Because it was a fantasy. You know, because he was giving me everything I wanted."

So, will David Perry ever come back to Florida?

Detectives say right now he's not charged with anything, so he doesn't have to return. He simply remains the prime suspect in Kelly's disappearance.

But, quite possibly, what upsets Melissa the most is not her soon-to-be ex, but rather the grief that Kelly's family is going through ten months after the disappearance.

She wrote to Kelly's family, "I'm so very sorry for your loss. I know what I am going through is nothing compared to what your family has endured. I am ashamed that I was there for someone who may have played a part in, or be responsible for, Kelly's disappearance. I wish I could go back and do it differently."

Melissa is currently stationed in Hawaii where she's a member of the military, whereas David Perry is still living in his home state of New York. He faces charges of insurance fraud after being arrested over the summer of 2011, accused of lying to the state to gain thousands of dollars in a worker's comp case. 

10 News asked Melissa, "Are you afraid [David] is coming after you?"

She said, "If I thought he was on plane to Hawaii, I'd be on a plane somewhere else."

In an odd twist, Kelly's friends tell us that David Perry took his soon-to-be ex-wife's name and goes by David Walker. He also got a Hawaii driver's license.











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