Coast Guard Vet Accused of National Park Execution Allegedly Wanted Rape Revenge

Santa Rosa County Jail
Santa Rosa County Jail

A U.S. Coast Guard veteran and adult performer accused of executing a father of two with a single bullet to the back of the head claimed he had previously sexually assaulted her, vowing shortly before the killing that he would “get his,” according to a court transcript obtained by The Daily Beast.

Chelsea Perkins, 31, fatally shot aspiring musician and Virginia transplant Matthew John Dunmire, also 31, on March 6, 2021, prosecutors allege. The two had spent the previous night together at an Airbnb, and the next morning headed to a butterfly sanctuary in Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Dunmire’s body was found four days later near a cemetery within the park.

FBI agents say they subsequently unearthed a draft of a suicide note on Perkins’ phone, which she attempted, unsuccessfully, to delete, suggesting Perkins planned to cover up the crime by making it appear Dunmire had killed himself, states the transcript, which will not be released in full until May.

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The document lays out stunning new details divulged in a Feb. 1 detention hearing, during which it emerged that Perkins had five years ago accused Dunmire of raping her. No motive has previously been revealed by investigators.

In the hearing, FBI Special Agent Gregory Craig said Perkins and Dunmire first met in Virginia, without offering further details about their exact relationship. In March 2017, Perkins filed a complaint with Virginia Beach police alleging that Dunmire had raped her the previous week, Craig testified.

“[T]he investigators there, during their subsequent investigation, did not feel that there were—they could go forward with a prosecution, so Matthew was not prosecuted for the alleged rape of Chelsea,” he said.

(The Daily Beast typically does not name victims of sexual assault wiithout their permission, but Perkins was previously and widely named as a suspect in Dunmire’s murder before her rape allegation became public.)

After Dunmire’s death, but before Perkins was arrested, the FBI got a search warrant for Perkins’ phone and social media accounts. In a series of private Instagram messages between Perkins and a user with the handle “Metal Gary Solid” roughly a week before Dunmire was killed, Perkins appeared disturbed that the social network’s algorithm had suggested Dunmire as a “friend.”

“That guy is a walking turd,” Metal Gary Solid responded, according to the transcript.

“LMFAO,” Perkins replied. “I don’t know how people still fuck with him.”

“Me neither,” Metal Gary Solid wrote back. “Like, how the fuck does he live with himself?”

After some more back-and-forth, Perkins said, “He will get his someday…”

“Yes he will,” Metal Gary Solid wrote. “Karma is an evil bitch.”

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Four days later, Perkins re-established contact with Dunmire via Facebook Messenger, using her stage name, Selena Savage, Craig said in court.

On March 3, 2021, Dunmire sent Perkins a friend request on Facebook, which she accepted, according to Craig’s testimony. That same day, Perkins posted to her Facebook page, “Dead men tell no tail [sic.]”

Two days later, Perkins set off on an “hours-long road trip” to Cleveland, prosecutors say, “armed with a 9mm firearm.”

That evening, Dunmire and some friends from the screen-printing shop where he worked went out to a bar called the Tiki Underground. There, he told his colleagues that a woman was coming in from out of town to see him, and that she was staying the night in Cleveland, according to a December 2021 criminal complaint charging Perkins with murder.

“I think about a week prior to all of this, Matthew was so excited because he was trying to stop drinking,” one of Dunmire’s co-workers told The Daily Beast shortly after Perkins was arrested. “He was really proud of himself, he was turning his life around. I remember he made a comment about having his whole life ahead of him—and then this happened.”

At around 6 p.m., a white Smart car with Virginia plates pulled up and Dunmire got in. The vehicle had a Coast Guard sticker on the back window, as well as a Bauhaus sticker and a third reading, “Virginia is for Lovers.” The two headed for an Airbnb Perkins booked using a credit card in her own name, stopping along the way for cigarettes and a bottle of water. Later, Perkins messaged a tattoo artist in Detroit saying she’d be there the next day after “making a stop first,” the complaint states.

After spending the night together, Perkins and Dunmire went to the nature preserve. Before they left the Airbnb, Dunmire tried to smooth things over with his girlfriend, saying that he hadn’t slept with Perkins.

“Well I pissed this chick off anyway so I hope yer happy,” he wrote.

Upon arriving at the park, Perkins “walked with [Dunmire] deep into the woods,” states a filing by prosecutors arguing against releasing Perkins on bond. “Once they were far enough away from witnesses, [Perkins] placed the muzzle of the pistol against the back of [Dunmire’s] head and pulled the trigger. [Perkins] then left him in the woods, walked back to her car and drove to Detroit to get a tattoo.”

On the way, Perkins, who has two children, aged 7 and 9, “deleted the content of any Facebook messages with [Dunmire], removed him from her friends list, and deactivated her Facebook account entirely,” the motion continues. Perkins allegedly “later drafted and deleted what appears to be a draft of a suicide note, which stated: ‘If you are reading this, it is too late. I’m sorry I beat you, and I raped a couple of chicks years ago. I am a shitty person and paid for my sins with blood. I’ve decided to leave this cruel world. Sorry I didn’t warn you first.’”

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FBI agents searched Perkins’ home in late March 2021, seizing clothing, electronic devices, and weapons from her home, defense lawyers argued in trying to win Perkins’ release pending trial. Perkins was aware that she was under investigation, but did not flee or commit any further crimes before she was arrested on Dec. 21, her attorneys said in the filing.

Investigators caught up with her after piecing together EZ-Pass data, surveillance video, online records, witness statements, DNA and ballistics evidence, and motor vehicle records, which showed the white Smart car Perkins drove to Cleveland was registered to her husband, John.

John Perkins, a Coast Guardsman temporarily stationed in Florida for training, is willing to “welcome her back into his home even under this cloud,” which the defense claimed “speaks volumes not just to her characteristics, but also to her character.” As an alternative that would keep her in Ohio, Perkins’ lawyers said a cousin volunteered to take her in until her trial begins—an offer later rescinded, when the relative found out precisely what the charges against Perkins entailed.

Concurring with prosecutors, who said Perkins remains a serious flight risk, U.S. District Court Judge Solomon Oliver, Jr. ordered Perkins to remain jailed.

Dunmire’s former co-worker told The Daily Beast back in December that Dunmire had moved to Ohio from Virginia “to better his life.”

“He always seemed so happy, and it just made my day,” she said. “I’m pretty picky about the people who I become friends with, and he was one of the people I felt like I could really connect with. The night that it happened, my coworkers and he were at the Tiki lounge… I’m kicking myself, [because] I ended up not going. I wish I was there, it would’ve been the last time I could have spent time with him.”

If convicted, Perkins faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Her court-appointed lawyers, Stephen C. Newman, Catherine Adinaro Shusky, and Alvaro L. DeCola, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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