Episode 017: Perrin Damron

November 8, 2021

A young mother goes missing on Florida’s Treasure Coast. Did Perrin Damron walk away, or was she the victim of something more sinister?

Episode Media
Perrin Damron (Florida Weekly)
Perrin Damron (Facebook)
Eric Westergard (Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office)
Episode Sources
Episode Transcript

Welcome back to Bite-Sized Crime. This week I’m bringing you a story of a young woman who was taken too soon, a victim of violence whose story is still unfolding. This episode discusses sensitive topics that may be triggering for some, so listener discretion is advised.

Twenty-three year old Perrin Damron was living in Stuart, Florida, with her 18-month-old son, Maverick. A graduate of Treasure Coast High School, Perrin had studied cosmetology at the Hollywood Institute of Beauty Careers and in December of 2020 had started working at a spa in Jupiter, Florida, just a 30-minute drive away from her home in Stuart’s Manatee Creek Community. 

On Friday, September 3, 2021, Maverick’s father, Steven Martin, drove to Perrin’s house to pick up their son around 6pm. Perrin had plans to meet up with a friend the next day, and promised to check in on Maverick while he was away from her. But Steven didn’t hear from Perrin at all on Friday evening or well into Saturday. This was not like her at all; Perrin was a devoted mother and always kept in close contact with Steven when Maverick was with him. 

When Perrin also didn’t show up to meet her friend on Saturday, those who knew her became concerned. Perrin was responsible, punctual – she would never just not show up without letting someone know, and she certainly wouldn’t go so long without contacting her son. By 10:00 Saturday night, Perrin was reported missing.

The Martin County Sheriff’s Office immediately began the search. Perrin’s car was still parked in her driveway, and all of her belongings were accounted for. Investigators didn’t notice anything unusual inside the home. Sheriff William Snyder told reporters that if anything had happened to Perrin, it most likely didn’t happen inside her house.

Sheriff Snyder also asked residents of the local community to check their home security cameras or business surveillance footage for any signs of Perrin. Officers canvassed the neighborhood and checked local hospitals and jails, but there was no sign of the young mother.

On Sunday morning, detectives learned that Steven Martin was not the last person to see Perrin on Friday night. According to a family friend, Perrin had left her home around 6:30pm with her mother’s boyfriend, 45-year-old Eric Westergard.

Investigators immediately began looking into Eric. He was an interesting character. In 2018, Eric was in the news when a kangaroo escaped from his animal sanctuary in Jupiter Farms. The kangaroo, named Storm, was spotted two days later by a volunteer search team, and Eric was able to capture the animal safely. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission temporarily removed seven kangaroos from the sanctuary while they worked with Eric to fix issues with the animals’ enclosure. They also issued 10 citations against Eric for the incident.

As this was happening, Perrin set up a GoFundMe page to help Eric with the costs of rebuilding the kangaroo enclosure. They were able to raise over $2,000 to fund the upgrades. It’s not clear whether Perrin worked at the sanctuary in any official capacity, or if she just volunteered her time due to Eric being a family friend, but in her updates on the GoFundMe page, she referred to the sanctuary’s crew as “we” multiple times. Eventually, all seven kangaroos were returned to the sanctuary.

But Eric wasn’t just a quirky animal rescuer. He also had a history of violence against women. A few months before the kangaroo incident, Eric had been charged with misdemeanor battery. According to the redacted arrest report, a 26-year-old woman attended a barbeque at Eric’s home, but soon began experiencing fatigue and went into the house to lie down. She awoke to find Eric on top of her, and when she resisted, he struck her several times in the face. Thankfully, she managed to escape and filed a police report. She told an officer that she hadn’t personally experienced violence from Eric before that day, but that she had heard stories of his violent tendencies from his ex-wife. When the officer later spoke with Eric, he admitted to the attack, but blamed it on a mixture of alcohol and pain medication. Eric claimed that he was unaware of what he was doing at the time, but that he had snapped out of it when the victim shouted his name. Eric entered a guilty plea for the battery charge, but he ended up avoiding any jail time.

Armed with this information, Martin County detectives began to suspect that Eric Westergard may have information about Perrin Damron’s whereabouts. Video footage from a neighbor’s doorbell camera showed Eric at Perrin’s house on Friday, and attempts to track Perrin’s cell phone revealed Eric’s house as its last known location.

On Sunday, September 5th, detectives drove to Eric’s home in Jupiter Farms, then followed his silver SUV around town. Eric went to a gas station and purchased a gallon of water, then drove to a heavily wooded area along the waterway. Detectives watched as Eric got in and out of his vehicle several times, then began cleaning the back cargo area with paper towels. When the detectives approached Eric, they noticed what appeared to be blood in the back of the SUV and on the paper towels. Eric told the detectives that he had had “an incident”, but he refused to elaborate. Detectives then contacted the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for assistance in the investigation.

Palm Beach detectives interviewed Eric at his home that same day. Eric had told Perrin’s mother Tammie that he had picked up Perrin on Friday night, then they had smoked marijuana at his house and had dinner at iHop before he dropped her back off at home around 1:30 on Saturday morning. He told Tammie that he was too high to remember much of what happened. But he told detectives a different story.

According to Eric, he and Perrin had been having an affair for several weeks. He said that he had accompanied Perrin to a doctor’s visit on Friday afternoon before Steven had arrived to pick up Maverick. Eric and Perrin had sex at her house, then drove to his home in Jupiter Farms Saturday morning where they spent the day together swimming in his pool. 

At some point during the day, Perrin fell, cutting her head on a hand truck. When she began bleeding profusely, Eric went inside to get paper towels and a blanket. But when he returned, he found Perrin gurgling and struggling to breathe. She eventually fell silent.

Eric then claimed that he waited for ten minutes before wrapping Perrin’s lifeless body in trash bags, rope, and tape, then loading her into the back of his Chevy Equinox. He drove to an overpass on State Road 710, weighed Perrin’s body down with cinder blocks, and tossed her into the St. Lucie Canal. He then returned home and attempted to clean up.

On Sunday evening, Eric led detectives to the bridge over the Okeechobee Waterway. Divers from Martin County’s Marine Unit pulled the body of Perrin Damron from the water. It was wrapped in trash bags and tried to a cinder block just like Eric had described. 

The initial report from Palm Beach investigators indicated that Perrin’s injury did not appear to be consistent with Eric’s claim that she had fallen and cut her head, and neither did the evidence found on his property. But even if his explanation is true, the fact remains that he did nothing to help Perrin as she was dying. The report stated, “At no time did Westergard attempt to get Damron any medical attention even though he was in possession of his cell phone. The only effort that [he] performed was to attempt to conceal the discovery of Damron and hide the evidence of the crime from authorities.”

Eric Westergard was arrested on Monday, September 6th and charged with first-degree murder. He is currently being held without bond at the Palm Beach County Jail.

In a press statement, Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said, “I am always profoundly sad when someone loses their life in violence. This case obviously did not end like we wanted it to. We hoped from the beginning that we would find her. I was thinking about that this morning, and I was thinking about her child, and a mother is gone, and that child will never know [his] mother… there are a lot of victims in this.”

Detectives continue to investigate Perrin’s death as her autopsy results are pending. They are also trying to determine Eric’s motive for killing her. If you have any information about the case, please contact the Martin County Sheriff’s Office at 772-220-7000.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or text START to 88788. Help is available 24/7 – it is free and confidential.