Posted: 6:42 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013

EXCLUSIVE

Police: Person of interest in Monroe woman’s homicide

Police make progress with several of Butler County’s unsolved homicides.



Related

Police: Person of interest in Monroe woman’s homicide photo
Katelyn Markham
Police: Person of interest in Monroe woman’s homicide photo
Materials related to the investigation of Barbara Howe’s homicide cover much of Detective Gregg Myers’ cubical at the Monroe Police Department. Howe, 87, was found dead in the trunk of her red Cadillac on Nov. 1, 2012, outside a Middletown apartment complex.
Police: Person of interest in Monroe woman’s homicide photo
Chelsea Johnson
Police: Person of interest in Monroe woman’s homicide photo
Joseph Oakley

By Lauren Pack

Staff Writer

BUTLER COUNTY —

Almost a year after 87-year-old Barbara Howe was found dead in the trunk of her red Cadillac at a Middletown apartment complex, Monroe police tell this newspaper they might have a suspect in her death.

“We have a person of interest,” Monroe Detective Gregg Myers told the Journal in an exclusive interview. “We have a lot of information that tells us a lot of facts … that points us in a direction.” Myers declined to elaborate more or say if or when police may question that person of interest.

Howe’s death is one of a handful of homicides in Butler County in the past two years that remain unsolved. Other notable unsolved homicides include Katelyn Markham, Chelsea Johnson and Joseph Oakley, all of Fairfield.

Police investigating those crimes remain tight-lipped about the cases, but said they want to reassure area residents who might be worried about their safety — and violent offenders being on the loose — that progress is being made.

Between 2008 and 2012, there were 46 homicides in Butler County and police solved 70 percent of them, or 32 cases, according to this newspaper’s analysis of coroner, police and court records. Authorities say solving homicide cases involves time and lots of investigation because in some cases there are no direct witnesses or witnesses who are willing to talk.

Some homicide cases can take years to solve such as the one involving Steven Denmark, a 30-year-old man, who was shot in his Hamilton home in 2010. After three years of investigations, Hamilton police and county prosecutors finally arrested and convicted Denmark’s killer a few months ago.

In Howe’s case, police, prosecutors and the Butler County coroner still have not released the Monroe woman’s exact cause of death, citing the ongoing investigation. Monroe police did reveal to this newspaper in February that Howe’s diamond wedding ring — larger than a karat — was missing and was being considered as a key piece of evidence to finding the person or persons responsible for her death. The ring has yet to be recovered, and police said no other jewelry on Howe’s person had been disturbed.

Myers’ cubical at the Monroe Police Department is cluttered with binders and boxes of the information he says points to their person of interest. When asked if finding Howe’s killer before the one-year anniversary of her death was a goal, Myers said, “I didn’t want the sun to go down without it being solved.”

Howe, the widow of successful Middletown automobile dealer Bill Howe, was last seen alive Oct. 27 when she left her cottage in the Mount Pleasant Retirement Village. She was found four days later dead in the trunk of her red Cadillac, which was abandoned in the parking lot of Woodridge Apartments in Middletown.

Donna Wesselman of Cincinnati, one of Howe’s daughters, could not be reached for comment.

“Only the law enforcement community know certain things … facts and information that are pertinent to this investigation,” Myers said. “It needs to remain that way.”

Myers said he knows the public wants to know more facts, “but right now they don’t have a right to know because it impedes my investigation.”

Prosecutor Michael Gmoser had no comment about the ongoing investigation, but did say he advised investigators to keep some details of the case to themselves, including Howe’s cause of death.

Meanwhile, Fairfield police continue to investigate a cluster of homicides involving teens, including the missing person portion of the Markham case.

Oakley, 19, was found dead near Creekville Village of Fairfield Apartments on Pleasant Avenue in August 2012. An autopsy revealed the young man was shot several times with a small caliber weapon in the chest. It was the second homicide in that location in less than two years.

Johnson, 15, was found stabbed to death in April near the same spot where Oakley’s body was found. Johnson and Oakley had both been students at Options Academy in Fairfield. The creek where Oakley was found is also in the same general area from where Markham disappeared on Aug. 14, 2011. Her remains were found in April in Indiana and last month her death was ruled a homicide. An exact cause of death for Markham could not be determined from her skeletal remains.

In a Sept. 4 interview with this newspaper, Fairfield Lt. Kevin Haddix confirmed a person of interest in the Oakley slaying was identified two months into the investigation.

No one has been charged with Johnson’s death, but George Donald Davis of Cincinnati, was convicted in connection with her case. He is serving a five-year prison sentence on charges that he attempted to exchange heroin for sex.

Fairfield police said they will be meeting with the county prosecutor’s office later this month to present more evidence collected in the Johnson case. They declined to name the suspect or suspects.

The first homicide in Fairfield this year was that of Damien Terrell Taylor, 29, who was shot dead at a Winton Road apartment complex in March. That crime remains unsolved.

“These are not who-done-it cases,” said Fairfield Detective Doug Day. “We are working to gather enough information.”

Fairfield Police Chief Michael Dickey said they investigate cases with convictions in mind and sometimes that takes time.

Markham’s homicide case, which has received national media attention, is officially being investigated by the Indiana State Police.

Dickey said, when the 22-year-old was reported missing, there was no indication of foul play surrounding the incident.

“I think it is fair to say in the first stages, the possibilities for what had happened were wide open. There was nothing at that point that would allow us to draw a conclusion,” Dickey said.

As time went on, the hope of a good outcome faded, police said. But, until her body was found, anything was a possibility.

David Markham, Katelyn’s father, said on the surface that is true.

“But I knew that she didn’t just walk away,” he said. “I knew something had happened to her.”

Indiana State Police Sgt. Noel Houze said his detectives essentially inherited a cold case, which put them at a disadvantage in finding Markham’s killer.

“It would be helpful if we knew how she was killed,” he said. “But it doesn’t make it impossible to solve. They (detectives) are doing everything they can do, but eventually leads are going to dry up.”

In all of the open cases, police and family agree, it may take someone coming forward with information.

“There is a person or persons who know what happened out there … That’s what we need,” Houze said.

Day added: “We know there are people out there with information. We need them to do the right thing.”

David Markham said the lack of answers after two years is frustrating. He said he’s also disappointed that a $50,000 reward hasn’t loosened anyone’s lips.

“It doesn’t seem like either one (Fairfield police and Indiana State Police) is taking the ball and running with it,” he said. “I do think justice will be served, it may take another two years, but it will happen.”


IN-DEPTH COVERAGE

No other news source has covered the homicide investigations in Butler County like The Middletown Journal/Hamilton JournalNews. Our reporters have broken the news on every major development in the investigation into 87-year-old Barbara Howe’s death. We were the first to tell you about her death, her missing wedding ring, and now that police have a person of interest in her homicide. Count on us to keep you informed about news to help keep you safe.

 
 

The latest news videos