JUPITER FARMS — A Jupiter Farms man was arrested Monday and charged with first-degree murder after he led police to the body of a 23-year-old Stuart woman in an Indiantown canal, according to the Palm Beach and Martin county sheriff’s offices.
Eric William Westergard, 45, was arrested just before 1:30 a.m. Monday in connection with the death of 23-year-old Perrin Damron, who was reported missing about 10 p.m. Saturday by a friend.
The friend thought it was suspicious Damron hadn’t been seen since her child’s father picked up their son, nearly 2, about 6 p.m. Friday at her home in the Manatee Creek community.
“Ms. Damron was extremely careful and a loving mother – and had not been in touch with the child since Friday,” Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said at a Monday afternoon news conference.
Damron was a Treasure Coast High School alum and studied at Hollywood Institute of Beauty Careers, according to her Facebook profile.
On Sunday morning, detectives learned from family friends that Damron last was seen with Westergard, whom Snyder described as a family friend, mostly her mother’s. Westergard went to her house about 6:30 p.m. Friday, Snyder said, and she left with him voluntarily.
The investigation moved to the Jupiter Farms area, where Westergard lives, and Palm Beach County sheriff’s officials interviewed him.
Westergard led detectives to a State Road 710 overpass above the Okeechobee Waterway heading into Indiantown, where detectives and marine units found Damron’s body.
No cause of death was available because an autopsy hadn’t been done yet, Snyder said. The motive is unknown, and it’s under investigation whether anyone else was involved.
Westergard was charged with first-degree murder and is being held without bail in the Palm Beach County jail.
From 2019:Judgment withheld for owner of escaped Jupiter Farms kangaroo
From 2018:Owner still searching for missing 4-foot-tall kangaroo named Storm
Westergard known for kangaroo escape in 2018
Westergard is known in Palm Beach County as the owner of an animal sanctuary where a 5-year-old kangaroo escaped in September 2018.
The kangaroo, named Storm, was pursued by local agencies for two days before being captured by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Westergard pleaded guilty to four of the 10 charges filed against him by the FWC for wildlife escaping from its enclosure; failure to clean hard floors within cages at least once weekly; failing to remove fecal matter and food waste on a daily basis; and maintaining captive wildlife in unsanitary conditions
At the time, Judge Robert Panse withheld adjudication, meaning Westergard was not legally found guilty by the court. He had to pay $587 in court costs.
Martin County Sheriff Snyder said the investigation is continuing.
“Information is still being processed,” the sheriff’s office posted on Facebook. “We would like to thank everyone for the overwhelming expression of support and prayers for the safe recovery of Ms. Damron, Unfortunately, this case did not end as we all had hoped.”