Cortland manhunt leads police to Tioga, woodland fire

This is the area the police departments are searching for the fugitive.

The search for an armed, dangerous and suicidal Cortland man has led to an apparent forest fire in the heart of the woods of Tioga County, according to officials.

After leading police on a chase through Cortland County, other jurisdictions and Tioga County, Matthew O. Perry drove into the isolated roads of Tioga Center and up the dead-end, dirt Brooks Road, according to state police. 

Officials on the scene using open radio frequencies requested help after a car at the end of Brooks Road burned, as well as an abandoned homestead and then acres of forest between the end of Brooks Road and Frost Hollow, the next road to the north, according to officials who independently verified the scanner chatter. The homestead was abandoned for more than 10 years, according to the 2020 Tioga County Real Property tax rolls.

State police helicopters are flying overhead as state police, its special “SORT” (Special Operations Response Team) team, Broome County’s SWAT team, the Tioga County Sheriff’s Office and various other agencies continue to search for the 32-year-old fugitive, according to state police.

“(Perry) should be considered armed and dangerous and should not be approached,” said state Public Information Officer and Trooper Aga Dembinska. “Perry is 6-foot 2-inches tall and weighs about 215 pounds.  It is unknown what he may be wearing.”

“Perry warned officers that he had no intention of returning to prison,” said Cortland police Lt. Michael Strangeway, “and that he would force officers into a violent encounter before he allowed himself to be taken into custody.”

County property records reveal there are residents with the surname Perry nearby, but it was not immediately known if they were relations of Matthew O. Perry. 

Since Perry was twice convicted of felony charges previously, he could face a potential life sentence if convicted of a third felony charge under the state penal law.

But it is still in Perry’s interest to turn himself in rather than place himself and others in danger, said Strangeway this afternoon.

“Our sincere hope, for the safety and well-being of Matthew and everyone else involved,” said Strangeway, “is that he surrender himself to police and deal with this matter through the legal system.”

If anyone spots Perry, they are urged to call 911 or the state police barracks in Sidney at (607) 561-7400.

Perry is facing charges of felony first-degree criminal contempt, felony criminal family offense and misdemeanor second-degree criminal contempt after Wednesday’s incident. Previously, Perry served a year-and-a-half in state prison for felony second-degree attempted criminal mischief and was released in August 2015. Before that, Perry served almost two years for third-degree burglary and first-degree criminal contempt, both felonies, and was released from state prison in March 2009.