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Person of interest arrested in missing person homicide case

Bernadine Montgomery last seen June 15 in Leesburg

LEESBURG, Fla. – Police have arrested a person of interest in connection with the death of Bernadine Montgomery.

David Adam Mariotti was arrested late Friday morning in Gilchrist County, officials said.

Police said they want to speak with him in connection with  Montgomery's death.

Montgomery, 84, was last seen June 15 in the 100 block of Palmora Boulevard. The missing person’s case was upgraded to a homicide investigation Thursday.

"As a result of the evidence and information gathered through the investigative process, detectives are re-classifying the Bernadine Montgomery case from a missing person to an open homicide investigation," Leesburg police Lt. Joe Lozzi said.

Leesburg police said Montgomery's 2005 blue Chevrolet four-door was also missing, but officers found it at a nearby park.

Investigators have searched along the shoreline of Lake Harris, about a quarter-mile from Montgomery's home.

Montgomery was reported missing by a neighbor who told police they hadn't seen her in weeks.

[VIDEO: Neighbor calls 911 after woman disappears from home]

News 6 has also learned that Bernadine Montgomery was the victim of fraud back in March. A company had been charging her for services it never rendered.

Montgomery didn't want to press charges, so nothing ever came of the case. Detectives, however, are reviewing that case again for possible clues into her disappearance. Lozzi said there does appear to be a nexus between the two cases.

"B had gotten old -- I think she was 84 -- and the last time I talked to her, She was a little slow," said neighbor Bob Lovell.

Lovell said he's known Montgomery and her husband for over 30 years and doesn't understand why someone would try to hurt her.

"I think people came in and took advantage of her. It was just a number of people taking her car, taking her stuff. I don't know why they would murder her," Lovell said. "We hadn't seen her in two to three weeks before she disappeared."

Detectives are hoping Mariotti will have some answers to what happened to the 84-year-old. Lovell told News 6 that Montgomery had recently made some new friends and was leaving her property to the church.

"I do know she had money, but to take her money, I know you'd have to transfer the stocks and bonds that John (Montgomery's husband) had and cash them," Lovell said.

Two weeks ago, Jeremy Gentry was arrested in connection with Montgomery's disappearance, accused of stealing her car. But police dropped the charges against him, saying there was not enough evidence.

Lovell said since Montgomery's gone missing, his family has been on guard.

"I don't like my wife walking at night, so I give her a .38 special, titanium light weight to put in her apron," Lovell said.

Police do have multiple persons of interests and many of them have been interviewed.