JACKSON, Maine — The Bangor man police named as a person of interest in the disappearance of a Florida firefighter was arrested and charged with murder late Tuesday afternoon at the Hadley Mills Road house where the Florida man was last seen.
“It’s a drug-related homicide,” said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.
Daniel Porter, 24, who had arrived earlier in the day in a Maine State Police detective’s car, was arrested just before 5 p.m. at the home rented by his father, McCausland said in a statement.
Police walked Porter out of the house in handcuffs and took him away.
State police believe that the missing firefighter, Jerry Perdomo, 31, of Orange City, Fla., was killed in Jackson but are not releasing any details about the death, including how they think Porter killed him, McCausland said.
“I’m not getting into specifics,” the state police spokesman said. “Specifics in this case will most likely be detailed in court documents that will be available tomorrow, Wednesday or Thursday.”
Perdomo’s body has not been found, McCausland said.
Bangor firefighter John Higgins, who was in Jackson earlier in the day and who volunteered to help search for Perdomo’s body, said Tuesday night that police “asked us to leave so they can start the search. They have a pretty good idea where he is at.”
Porter will be booked into the Waldo County Jail in Belfast on Tuesday night, McCausland said.
Perdomo’s brother-in-law Chris Lerch was at the Jackson house earlier Tuesday afternoon when state police pulled into the driveway with Porter in the front seat.
Lerch, of Florida, said by phone that it was painful seeing Porter get out of the unmarked police cruiser.
“It’s difficult,” he said. “It’s just very difficult.”
Police have said they believe that Porter is one of the last people to have had contact with Perdomo — a firefighter and emergency medical technician for the Seminole County Fire Department — who has been missing since Feb. 16. His rental car was found abandoned at the Bangor Walmart the next day.
Porter was in the police car and his father and another man were in a separate car that arrived at the same time Tuesday afternoon, said firefighter Higgins, who is escorting Lerch around Maine.
“We just keep ending up back there,” Higgins said, referring to Jackson. “When we got there nobody was there” except for a couple of television news crews.
“They brought him in there and they’re still there,” the Bangor firefighter said just before 2 p.m., referring to Porter. “We were asked to leave by the officer, so we left. He said they were in the middle of an investigation and asked us to leave, so we did.”
A reporter for a Florida television station, WFTV-TV, Channel 9, approached the state police detective’s car as Porter got out of the vehicle and asked him if he had killed Perdomo.
He never got the chance to answer because the detective ordered the TV crews to leave or be arrested.
Seminole County firefighter Troy Todak, who is in Maine to look for his friend and co-worker, remained at the scene with the news media and appeared heartbroken by the news.
“I’m glad he’s been arrested — that they found the person who did it. Unfortunately, they haven’t located Jerry,” the Florida man said. “Jerry is still missing. They found out who killed him and now they just have to find him.
“This is far from over. I’m sure there is going to be questions — why, where and when,” he added. “You don’t just go on vacation and end up missing” for no reason.
Perdomo served in Iraq as a Marine and was hired as a Seminole County firefighter in 2009. Authorities are investigating why he traveled to Maine, Lt. Christopher Coleman, who leads the state police Major Crimes Unit for northern Maine, said Monday.
Authorities collected evidence from the Waldo County house over the weekend, including a rolled-up piece of carpet and other items, and have searched two cars driven by Porter as well as the missing Florida man’s rental car.
Porter and his 25-year-old girlfriend, Cheyanne Nowak, may have been the last ones to have contact with Perdomo, police have said.
At about 2:45 p.m. Tuesday, a black truck with a snowmobile in the bed pulled into the driveway of the Jackson house, driven by a Maine game warden. The truck was accompanied by a state police cruiser.
The Bangor Police Department’s mobile crime lab arrived at the scene at about 3:30 p.m. After officers consulted a map and conferred with the game warden, the vehicle left the scene, heading toward the center of Jackson with a state police investigator in a separate car.
The group, which included Bangor police Detective Larry Ellis and Officer Eric Tourtellotte and state police Detective Jennifer Fiske, took a left onto the Village Road, heading toward Monroe, and stopped after about a mile.
After walking about a quarter mile down a stream-side trail, the group of three stopped and Ellis could be heard saying, “This isn’t it, I can tell you that right now. It’s too shallow.”
Asked what they were looking for, Ellis responded that he couldn’t give any specifics. “We’re trying to figure out if truths are being told,” he said.
Lerch said he could only speculate on what state police were doing with Porter at the last place his brother-in-law was seen.
“I don’t know what they are doing,” he said. “I’m not going to try and guess.”
Hundreds of firefighters from Seminole County are willing to come to Maine to search for their friend, Todak said.
“My main focus was to come up here and find Jerry,” he said. “When we find him, the mission will be successful.”
BDN photographer Kevin Bennett contributed to this report.
An earlier version of this story reported that state police pulled into the driveway with Daniel Porter in the back seat of their car. He was in the front seat of the car.
A photo caption on an earlier version of this article misidentified the police officer leading Daniel Porter to the police car. The officer’s name is Brian Strout, not Brain.