INDIAN ROCKS BEACH, Fla. — For 10 years, Kelly Rothwell’s family has suffered terribly — hoping to find out what happened to her.
“It hasn’t gotten easier, but we have been able to make peace with it, I think. In our own way Kelly is still with us,” said Kelly’s sister Kristen Snowden.
The 35-year-old police cadet disappeared back in March of 2011. She was supposed to meet up with friends. When she didn’t show up, they called deputies to do a welfare check at her Indian Rocks condo.
“When they got there, there was no answer. So, they broke the door down because it was double-locked. And, when they walked in, the entire place smelled like bleach. Like everything had been disinfected,” said freelance reporter Leigh Clifton. “It was immaculate. Two people lived there and they could find barely any DNA of anybody’s of his or hers or anyone who visited.”
Leigh Clifton runs the website tampabaycrimereport.com. The freelance reporter has dedicated a decade to the case after making a promise to Kelly’s mom.
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“I said 'Mrs. Rothwell let me tell you something,'” said Clifton. “'I don’t know why but I’m going to stay on this case, it’s going to make me cry,' I said. 'I will stay on this case until we can bring your daughter home.' To this day I have no idea why I said that.”
Neighbors said they heard banging then vacuuming in the apartment Kelly shared with her long-time boyfriend David Perry. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office says he’s still a person of interest in Kelly’s disappearance. He’s never been charged in this case. 10 Tampa Bay tried to reach him for comment but couldn’t get one.
Cold case investigators continue working on finding Kelly — with leads taking them to as far away as upstate New York. Her family is still hoping someone will come forward with the information they need.
“I would love to be able to bring her home and have a gravesite to visit and to just know what happened,” said Snowden.