JACKSON, Maine — The brother-in-law of a missing Florida firefighter had just arrived Tuesday at the last place the man was seen — a house on Hadley Mills Road — when the Maine State Police pulled into the driveway with the man who is a person of interest in the case in the backseat.
Chris Lerch of Florida said by phone that it was painful seeing Daniel Porter, 24, of Bangor 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 Jerry Perdomo, 31, of Orange City, Fla. — 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, who was identified by state police Monday as a person of interest in the disappearance of Perdomo, 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 Bangor firefighter John 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 help with the search for his friend and co-worker, remained at the scene with the news media.
Perdomo, who served in Iraq as a Marine, is described as a 200-pound Puerto Rican male, 5 feet 11 inches tall with black hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a black zip-up hooded sweatshirt, fatigue shorts and black sneakers.
Authorities collected evidence from the Waldo County house over the weekend, including a rolled-up piece of carpet and other items, and are searching 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. a black truck with a snowmobile in the bed pulled into the driveway, driven by a Maine game warden. The truck was accompanied by a Maine State Police cruiser.
The Bangor Police Department’s mobile crime lab arrived at the scene at around 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 on 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 can only speculate on what state police are 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.”