Motive in bizarre South Beach murder apparently not money
South barrier island resident Asbury Lee Perkins is charged with the premeditated shooting death of his estranged wife Cynthia Betts back in November, telling police on the scene he did it because she constantly nagged him and took money from their account. But court papers show Perkins was not set to inherit a windfall had he managed elude prosecution.
The Last Will and Testament of Cynthia Betts, drawn up in 1991 when Betts and Perkins were still just newlyweds, states that she would bequeath nearly all her worldly possessions to her brother in New Jersey, or as a backup, to her father. Should Betts perish, the will states, Perkins would only receive $5,000, some “household goods” and his wife’s Volvo station wagon.
By the time he was arrested for murder after being found at 2120 Seagrape Drive with Betts’ body rolled up in an area rug, Perkins had been declared indigent while facing DUI and domestic violence charges. The couple’s half-million dollar home in Vero’s south beach had been quit-claim deeded over to Betts and Perkins had signed his Power of Attorney over to Betts for personal and business matters.
Since 1999, according to Betts’ sworn statements in the case file, she and Perkins were 50/50 partners in a home-based business called Target Electronics, which Betts told the court marketed products to the military.
Records indicate that over the course of their tumultuous marriage – with documented violent run-ins dating at least as far back as 2008 – it may have been the ongoing joint business interest, not their marital bond, which kept Betts and Perkins in close contact, even after Perkins’ drinking problem got worse and his temper flared.
On May 27, 2013, Betts called police and had Perkins arrested on domestic violence charges after a drunken altercation at their home, which began the night before. In a statement to police, Betts, in her own words and handwritten account, describes what happened:
“Last nite Asbury started drinking vodka and got mean and hurtful, verbally abusing me and threatening to leave because he hated me and his life here and because he couldn’t drive a car or get a job on his own because of past records and hated being dependent upon me,” Betts stated, adding that Perkins banged doors, ripped clothes and threw potted plants on the floor, making a mess.
According to the paperwork, the argument centered around several pricey bottles of wine. Betts said Perkins threatened to drink some wine that she needed to use for a demonstration for her job – wine that was in the house yet off-limits to him.
“I went to sleep in my own bedroom with the door locked and got up to find that he had drank all the bottles of wine for my work and today I had a demonstration to do with the particular wine, Robledo, which was $50 a bottle and he drank a few others and hid the bottles in his bedroom.”
“We had words and I went to call the police and he took me in a head lock from behind when I picked up the phone to call 911, and he hung up the phone and this morning I went to get the phone again and he took me into a head lock and forced the phone handle on my mouth and hurt my neck by squeezing it, and my left arm was twisted and bruised. He threw a plant on the floor with rocks in it all over the family room.”
The court granted Betts a protection order on June 6, banning Perkins from going near her or the house. Then two months later on Aug. 13, Betts, also in her own handwriting, applied to have the injunction lifted, saying it was not practical to have Perkins stay away from the home.
“I would like to dissolve this injunction because of the following reasons: Asbury Perkins resides and works at 2120 Seagrape Drive, Vero Beach, Florida where we have a business at home and we are in the process of selling a portion of the business and he is my business partner and needs to be involved in the day to day decisions and the partial sale of the company in which we own together,” Betts wrote.
“I can’t handle some of the business responsibilities that he handled since Oct. 1999 and I need his assistance. I believe he will act accordingly and not become a threat to me anymore,” she continued. “He is willing to go to counseling and treatment for the alcohol problem. I do not feel that I am in any danger if he comes to the residence to assist with the day to day business affairs with our company Target Electronics Inc. that he founded in 1999.”
Three weeks later, Betts filled out a second “Motion to Dissolve Injunction for Protection Against Domestic or Repeat Violence” and implored the court to lift the order. “Our business is up for sale and Asbury is the more knowledgeable one in our electronics business to the military contractors and I can’t conduct the business or sale without his guidance and assistance in this transaction and I need to have personal contact with Asbury,” Betts wrote in her own hand.
“I have lived with Asbury Perkins since 1990 and he has never harmed me or injured me other than the incident with the phone where the phone hit my lip. I believe it was a mistake and not done intentionally to injure me.”
Court papers cite at least two previous incidents of violence in South Florida, in 2008 and 2009, against Betts and against her father, before Betts and Perkins moved to Indian River County Betts concluded, “It is an important sale for us to have to alleviate financial problems, I am not fearful of Asbury and not worried that he will harm me in any way. I do not feel that I am in danger.”
Perkins has entered a plea of not guilty and is awaiting a jury trial, which could take several years to happen. Meanwhile he is being held without bond in the Indian River County Jail.