Thursday, March 23, 2023

The Disappearance and Murder of Katelyn Markham


Katelyn Markham was just days shy of turning 22 years-old when she vanished in August 2011. At the time of her disappearance, Katelyn was a student at The Art Institute of Ohio, and she was passionate about her studies. She was also working two jobs and participating in an internship. By all accounts, she was a responsible person and reliable employee. Katelyn's disappearance left both her inner circle and investigators baffled.

After Katelyn was reported missing, it was determined that she was last seen alive by her fiancé, John Carter. On the evening of August 13th, John went over to Katelyn's condo in Fairfield, Ohio after she had finished her day at work. A friend of Katelyn's also came over to hang out with the couple, but she ended up leaving after she sensed tension between Katelyn and John. The friend noticed that Katelyn seemed quiet, which John said was due to magic mushrooms that the two of them had taken. 

According to John, he left Katelyn's condo between 11:00 PM and midnight to go hang out with some friends who were having a bonfire. The couple reportedly continued to text throughout the night. Katelyn sent her final text shortly before 1:00 AM. She was never seen or heard from again. John returned to his own home around 4:00 AM. He sent a "good morning" text to Katelyn shortly before going to sleep until the late afternoon. When he awoke to go to his job at Papa John's, he noticed Katelyn had not responded to the text. John said he continued to call or text her throughout the afternoon, but he never got a response. Worried, he left his job early to go check on Katelyn at her condo. 

John used his own key to enter the residence. When he got there, nothing seemed out of place - except Katelyn's dog, which was found locked in an upstairs bedroom. This was not the usual spot where Katelyn kept her dog. It also appeared that the dog had not been let out at all that day, which was also unusual. Additionally, Katelyn's car was parked in its normal spot outside the home, but Katelyn herself was nowhere to be found. At this point, the worries for Katelyn continued to build.

Soon, John learned that Katelyn's friends and family members had not heard from her either. He also heard that Katelyn had never shown up from her scheduled shift at David's Bridal. Shortly before 8:00 PM, John called police to report Katelyn as missing. The search began shortly thereafter. Over the next few weeks, volunteers passed out fliers, and search teams scoured the surrounding areas. Unfortunately, nothing was found. 

Over time, Katelyn's case went cold. Police followed tips and conducted interviews, but they seemingly got no closer to locating her. Then, on April 7th, 2013, human remains were found at Big Cedar Creek in Cedar Grove, Indiana - located approximately 30 miles from Katelyn's condo. A couple was searching for scrap metal in the area when they spotted what looked like a human jaw wrapped in a grocery bag. Police were called, and a search of the area resulted in the discovery of more remains. Dental records later confirmed that the remains belong to Katelyn Markham. To this day, Katelyn's cause of death has never been determined - but her manner of death is classified as homicide. 


Who killed Katelyn?

Katelyn's family members were inevitably devastated when they learned that Katelyn had been a victim of homicide - but they were also not incredibly surprised by the news. When she was first missing, Katelyn's loved ones clung to hope that she would be found safe. As weeks turned into months without any sign of her, their hopes dwindled. Eventually, Katelyn's family came to believe that Katelyn had been murdered. Once those beliefs were confirmed in April 2013, many questions still remained. The one key question being: who killed Katelyn? 

Many theories have emerged over the years, but no arrests have ever been in made in the case. Investigators have uncovered a lot of information about Katelyn's life before she was killed. They have also been able to establish a timeline of the events leading up to her disappearance. Both the information and the timeline have led to a few prominent theories.

Who was Katelyn?

Katelyn's loved ones describe her as a kind person who enjoyed making others happy. Her father Dave Markham describes her as warm, outgoing, positive, and energetic. She was always known as reliable, a good student, and a responsible employee. 

In 2011, Katelyn was living a busy life. As previously stated, she was student at the Art Institute of Ohio. Reports say that she was very dedicated to her craft. Katelyn also worked two jobs, one at David's Bridal and another co-op position at her school's bookstore. 

Katelyn was also engaged to a man named John Carter. The two had been together for about six years at the time of Katelyn's disappearance. They had been engaged for one year. 

The relationship.

Katelyn and John did not yet live together, as John lived with his family and Katelyn had her own place in Fairfield. However, John had a key to her condo and frequently spent time there. According to John, he and Katelyn were looking forward to the future. The couple reportedly wanted to move to Colorado after getting married. 

John and Katelyn would frequently text/call each other when they were not together. John said that when Katelyn did not respond to any of his texts on August 14th, 2011, he knew something was off. It was John who called 9-1-1 when he discovered Katelyn to be missing. Some believe he sounds genuinely concerned in the phone call, while others disagree. Audio of the call can be found here.

For nearly a decade, John was not named as a suspect in Katelyn's disappearance and/or murder. There were inevitably people who believed he was, in fact, responsible for her death - but it took years for charges to be brought forward. Initial suspicions on John were likely due to some of his actions/words around the time of Katelyn's disappearance. When he called 911 to report her missing, the dispatcher asked if he and Katelyn had been having issues in their relationship - to which he responded, "not at all". However, Katelyn's friend Michelle Feist has contradicted this. In fact, Michelle told Crime Watch Daily that Katelyn and John had a pretty heated argument just two days before her disappearance.

According to the Michelle, John and Katelyn got into an argument on August 12th, 2011, over some financial struggles. Despite this, the couple still attended a festival at a local church that evening. By Michelle's account, the argument between John and Katelyn carried over into the event. Eventually, Katelyn got very upset and ended up leaving the festival early. 

It's completely possible that John and Katelyn resolved their spat before she vanished - but, as previously stated, the couple seemed to have some tension the following night as well. A friend visiting the couple at Katelyn's condo decided to leave after she believed the two wanted to be alone. John said that Katelyn was not acting like herself because the couple had taken magic mushrooms - but many have questioned this. Katelyn arrived home from work approximately 15 minutes before the friend came over. Even if she had taken the mushrooms as soon as she walked through the door, it's very unlikely that she'd be feeling the effects that quickly. Some have questioned if Katelyn even took the mushrooms at all. She had just returned home from a long day of work, she was tired, and it seems unlikely that she'd want to experience the effects of mushrooms if she just wanted to lounge at home.

Another aspect of John's story that some people found odd was the bonfire. John told investigators that he left Katelyn's condo around 11:00 PM on August 13th to meet up with friends. He brought a bag full of documents belonging to Katelyn to burn in the fire. John explained that Katelyn wanted to shred the documents instead of throwing them away, but she did not have a shredder. Instead, John took the documents with the intention of burning them so she would not have to worry about it. 

Some find this to be an odd explanation as to why he destroyed Katelyn's documents, but it also didn't seem like too much of a stretch at first. He told investigators that he often ran errands for Katelyn - so it's possible that he truly was doing her a favor by removing the papers from her home. Still, some have questioned John's alibi in general. A few of the friends John alleged to be with that night have told a different story. In fact, some claim that there was never even a bonfire that night.

Although there was a lot of speculation about John, it appears that investigators eventually began to focus their attention elsewhere. Over the years, John spoke out publicly several times about Katelyn's case, and he continued to deny any involvement in her death.

A potential new lead.

In 2018, a new potential suspect came on the investigator's radar. A man named Michael Strouse had been charged with murdering 23-year-old Ellie Weik in West Chester, Ohio.

Michael Strouse

West Chester is located only an approximate 45-minute drive away from Fairfield, where Katelyn was killed. There were also some similarities between the two cases. The bodies of both Katelyn and Ellie were found in a field. Ellie's cause of death was asphyxiation, and she was found with a plastic bag over her head. While Katelyn's cause of death was undetermined, her skull was also found in a plastic bag.

The one thing that truly made Strouse seem like a viable suspect? He knew Katelyn. Sources say Strouse and John Carter had mutual friends. Several people sent investigators a picture on social media that includes both Strouse and John. 

However, there were many reasons to doubt that Strouse was involved in Katelyn's murder as well. Ellie Weik and Strouse were involved in a romantic relationship at some point prior to Ellie's murder. He had apparently been stalking her for months beforehand. There is no evidence to suggest that Strouse had ever stalked Katelyn, nor is there any physical evidence that connects him to Katelyn's case. 

An update in 2023.

In February of 2023, police announced that they arrested a man named Jonathan Palmerton (35) on perjury charges in relation to Katelyn's case. 

Palmerton is a resident of Fairfield, and he was arrested on February 17th. The arrest came after a search warrant was issued at his home. A search warrant was also reportedly executed at the home of John Carter - Katelyn's fiancé at the time of her disappearance - but he was not charged with anything related to the case. 

It is suspected that Palmerton lied in connection to the investigation into Katelyn's disappearance/murder - but so far, police have not revealed any details. It's unclear how Palmerton is connected to Katelyn at this time, but several articles state that both John Carter's residence and the residence of Carter's "friend" were searched. It's possible that Palmerton is that friend, but at this time, we do not have that information. Updates will be provided if/when they are available.

Another 2023 update.

John Carter has been arrested and charged with Katelyn's murder. He is currently being held on 2 charges of felony murder. At the time of John's arrest, very other details have been revealed, but many had suspected that John was involved from the very beginning of the investigation. He is currently behind bars as he awaits court proceedings. 

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