Information surfaces about couple, Central Florida firefighter missing

Published On: Feb 24 2012 10:55:14 AM EST
Updated On: Feb 26 2012 09:45:21 AM EST
ORLANDO, Fla. -

A couple sought in connection with the disappearance of a missing Central Florida firefighter  may have switched vehicles this week, according to a Maine dealership.

Rod Pelkey, a manager at Lee Credit Now, said Daniel Porter, 24, and Cheyanne Nowak, 23, bought a car and picked it up in Oakland on Tuesday.

Nowak and Porter have been questioned by Bangor police in the disappearance of Jerry Perdomo, a 31-year-old Seminole County firefighter who recently traveled to Maine and vanished.

Pelkey told Local 6 Porter appeared a little out of sorts, with mussed up hair and was not as engaged in the deal as Nowak was. Pelkey said Porter told him he was going through a family emergency and his grandfather was sick.

Pelkey said Porter and Nowak bought a Hyundai Elantra, around approximately $5,000 from another Lee Credit Now office and picked up the car from the Oakland office around 2 or 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Porter originally asked for directions to the Oakland Walmart so he could leave the old car in that lot, but Pelkey said he offered to let them leave their old car at the dealership until they came back from a trip to his grandfather's in Connecticut. Pelkey said they told him they would be back by Thursday to pick it up.

Bangor police haven't released any other details on the couple but issued a statement, saying "As a result of the assistance provided by the public following (Thursday’s) press release, we have located Daniel Porter and Cheyanne Nowak and have been able to interview them regarding the Jerry Perdomo missing persons investigation. We would like to thank the public for their assistance. This investigation is continuing and we have no further information to provide at this time."

Police have said that they believe Porter and Nowak were the last ones to see Perdomo.

"It is believed that one or both of these individuals may have had contact with Mr. Perdomo shortly before or after Feb. 16," said Lt. Tim Reid of the Bangor Police Department.

Local 6 talked to Nowak's mother, who said police came to her house on Tuesday looking for her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend, Daniel.

"They were questioned, both released, not arrested, nothing," said Debra Nowak. Debra Nowak said her daughter has no connection to the missing firefighter, but her daughter's boyfriend may be the link.

"They wanted to talk to her because she's associated with him," Debra Nowak said. She also said Porter "knows the guy that's missing."

Nowak said her daughter had no idea what was going on.

"She knew nothing about this until a couple of days ago."

Nowak posted on her Facebook Thursday night asking for people to leave her alone and said she wasn't involved.

Nowak's post states: "To all of you whom I do not know: Please stop friending me. I don't know you. I don't want to know you. I don't know what else to do. I'm sorry for your loss. I'm sorry your friend is missing. It is a terrible thing. I am so sorry about this. But I can do nothing further. Night."

Local 6 also uncovered new information on Friday about Perdomo’s background.

After marrying in April 2001, Perdomo and his wife, Tonya, lived in Orlando with their newborn daughter and attended Valencia Community College before he enlisted in the Marines on May 29, 2001 and moved the family to North Carolina, near Camp Lejeune.

During five months deployed to Iraq  with the 2nd Light Armored unit, Marine Sgt. Jerry Perdomo engaged in three "big fire fights" that left him emotionally scarred, according to his sworn testimony in an auto negligence lawsuit.

In May 2005, he was discharged from his four-year commitment - including forays into Fallujah, Baghdad, Tikrit and Nasiriyah - with a "final discharge diagnosis" of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"When I had (it) real bad, I kept having some flashbacks ... Just some of the stuff I seen. I kept reliving it almost," he testified in a deposition.

PTSD, along with injuries to his knee, back and neck, also caused him to take prescription painkillers, anti-inflammatories and other drugs, he said.

"When I had PTSD real bad, I was taking some sleeping pills," he said, adding he also took prescription anti-inflammatories for joint pain.

After the May 30, 2007 car accident, when his car was rear ended as it waited at a red light, he complained of insomnia, whiplash and lower back pain, for which he took painkillers.

The neck and back pain lingered at least until his August 2008 deposition, when he said, "I always try to do stretches for my neck. Usually pain killers help a little bit."

The lawsuit was settled in May 2010 after Perdomo's attorney made a $5,000 settlement offer. The actual final settlement amount is not included in court records.

Perdomo had by then also settled, for payment to him of $3,800, a worker's compensation claim stemming from burns he received in October 2007 while employed as a $17-an-hour automotive technician, according to court records. The records do not reveal the exact cause of the second-degree burns to his face, arm and torso.

After his 2005 discharge, he enrolled in Seminole Community College, where he earned degrees in automotive technology and became certified as an Emergency Medical Technician and firefighter, he said in his deposition.

Perdomo was reported missing Sunday after driving from Florida to Maine last week.

His rental car was found abandoned in a Bangor Walmart parking lot.  Bangor police said they reviewed surveillance video and it showed someone getting out of the car around 8:15 a.m. Friday and walking away from the store.  It's not known, however, who the person is.

Perdomo, a firefighter and emergency medical technician at Seminole County Fire Department Station 41 in Sanford, last had contact with his wife, Tonya, via a text message that he sent her Thursday night.

Several of Perdomo's coworkers headed to Bangor to help search for him on Friday. Dave Williams and Troy Todak said they are going to Maine to pass out information and talk to local media there to raise awareness of the disappearance.

They said they plan to "lay the groundwork" for a future search, in which they will invite more Seminole County firefighters.
PHOTOS: Firefighter vanishes

Their trip is being funded by the firefighters union and private donors. They said they don't know when they'll come back home but if they leave, they'll be replaced by others.

A fund for Perdomo is also being set up at Wells Fargo later Friday.

Watch Local 6 News for more on this story.

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