Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher was on and off and marked by tension that had escalated after the birth of their daughter, according to a relative and a friend of Perkins. She was fatally shot Saturday by Belcher before he killed himself.
In a phone interview Sunday, Angela Perkins, 32, who said she is the victim's cousin, said Belcher and Perkins -- whom she called Kasi -- had "been having a lot of problems. They weren't getting along for quite a while."
Perkins, who said she spent time at the couple's home both before and after their 3-month-old daughter was born, said the stress of having a baby just before the season and Belcher's constant time away from home for practice and road games "really put a strain" on their relationship.
"There was just a lot going on. She was stressed. He was stressed," said Perkins. Arguing was "a regular thing. It just started to go bad, but they had the child, and they were trying to make it work."
Across the street from the Jackson County medical examiner's office in Kansas City, Mo., where friends and relatives of Perkins and Belcher had parked, Lynell Diggs, a friend of Perkins, confirmed the relationship was troubled.
"He didn't want her going out with the baby at home," said Diggs, who said she had attended the Trey Songz concert Friday night with Perkins.
Diggs said Perkins had expressed concern about Belcher's mental state. "She knew something was off with him," she said, adding that Perkins had talked of it at a restaurant after the show.
"She went out to take a break. She was dealing with a lot," Diggs said of Perkins' desire to go to the concert. "I can't believe he did this to her. Tell people how good she was. She was special."
But Charmaine Shepherd, Belcher's sister, cautioned against prejudging what happened between her brother and his girlfriend. Belcher and Perkins were "the only people who knew what went on their relationship," she said.
"And both of them are gone," Shepherd said. "But people are going to say what they want."
Perkins and a Kansas City, Mo., police spokesman says the baby, Zoey Michelle Belcher, is in her grandmother's custody, safe and unharmed.
Perkins said the plan for now is for the baby to go to Long Island to live. Outside the couple's home in a trendy new subdivision in Independence, Mo., Perkins' friend, Lauren Hall, 25, said Perkins was close with several wives and girlfriends of Chiefs players and had a busy social life despite only moving here from Dallas three years ago.
"She was a happy new mom," said Hall. "She strolled the baby around the neighborhood. She was really looking forward to raising her here and becoming a teacher" in Kansas City. Hall said she was also with Perkins and several other women Friday night at the Trey Songz concert, and afterward at the restaurant. "She was happy that night," she said. "Before she went home, she was happy. That's how I'll remember her."
She also said the women returned to the restaurant Sunday in Perkins' honor to reminisce about their deceased friend.
Back in West Babylon, family and neighbors of Belcher, who was raised there, struggled Sunday to reconcile the violent circumstances surrounding his death with the man they knew.
"No one knows what happened but those two. I wish he would have said something to someone . . . We're all coming together. It shocks all of us," said Eric Oakes, 20, a cousin of Belcher. He described Belcher, 25, and Perkins, 22, as a happy couple and said Belcher's mother, Cheryl Shepherd, 58, had been out visiting her son to help care for the baby. She is now expected to return home Sunday or Monday with the child. Funeral arrangements are pending, Oakes said, adding that as long as the baby has the grandmother and family, the baby will be fine.
Oakes said Belcher was "more than a cousin, he was a father figure." Oakes, a former running back for West Babylon High School who was wearing a Kansas City Chiefs jersey with Belcher's number, 59, said, "He's the reason I started playing football."
Oakes said his cousin didn't experience any head trauma as of late from football and that he wasn't on any medication. "It's hard to figure out," said Emanual Logan, who lives next door, and watched Belcher grow up.
"He was a pleasant guy," said Logan, recalling how Belcher hosted a block party for children in the neighborhood this past summer. "It's really out of character for him, but there must have been something in his past to suggest he could commit an act like this," said former neighbor Marieme Lo, 37.
Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend in their Kansas City, Mo., home Saturday morning and then killed himself in front of his coach at Arrowhead Stadium, authorities said.
By Sunday afternoon, more than 20 friends, former teammates and family members had visited a makeshift memorial in the driveway of Belcher's mother's home, some bringing flowers. No one spoke to the media.
Memorabilia from Belcher's football career decorated the front of the Matthews Avenue home, with mourners bringing autographed Kansas City Chiefs jerseys, posters and balloons. Others added a helmet from Belcher's days at the University of Maine and a West Babylon High School varsity jacket.
Margaret Nagle, a spokeswoman for the University of Maine, said Belcher participated in the Male Athletes Against Violence initiative for one semester. She said there were no criminal incidents involving Belcher recorded by the University of Maine police.
In a Saturday news conference, Belcher's former football coach there, Jack Cosgrove, said, "I'm hard pressed to find or recall a young man who had more of an impact in a positive way on his teammates and his football family in my time here. He's truly one of the great stories in the program's history.
"Everybody knows what he did on the football field, but a lot of the things that he did were lost. He was a member of Big Brothers. He had a young man that he served as kind of a foster-father for. He graduated in 3½ years, which is a tremendous accomplishment for a student athlete. He was a captain, but he was more than a captain," said Cosgrove, who said the last time he had spoken with Belcher was after the birth of his daughter.
Saturday, stunned family and friends said the violence was out of character for the jovial, carefree athlete. "The guy always had a smile on his face. He would just wrap his arms around you," said Belcher's uncle, Willis Miles, 53, of West Babylon. Miles' sister, Cheryl Shepherd, 58, Belcher's mother, witnessed Perkins' slaying and called police.
Ollie Roy, 30, said Belcher, a childhood friend and neighbor, wasn't a violent person.
"I hadn't seen nothing like that in him," he said.
Ruben Marshall, a family friend who served as Belcher's Police Athletic League coach, said news of the murder-suicide ran counter to everything he knew about his star player. "I couldn't believe it. I didn't want to believe it," he said. "He was a good person."
Miles said his nephew acted like "a proud new father," and Belcher and his girlfriend seemed happy.
"Whatever personal problems they had, I didn't know about it," Miles said.