HAMILTON — It took 12 years of investigating by multiple police agencies, but the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office made an arrest Wednesday in the 2011 death of Katelyn Markham in Fairfield.
Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said Markham’s fiancé was the person arrested.
John Carter, 34, Markham’s fiancé when she went missing from her Fairfield, Ohio townhouse, was arrested for murder, according to Gmoser. He was booked into the Butler County Jail.
The arrest comes nearly a month after Jonathan Palmerton — described as a friend of Carter’s and a member of a tight circle of friends including Markham — was indicted for perjury.
Markham was a 22-year-old art student residing in Fairfield when she vanished in August 2011. Her skeletal remains were found Aug. 7, 2013, in a remote wooded area in Indiana about 30 miles from her home. Her death was ruled a homicide, but the cause of death has not been determined, and remained unsolved until today, March 22.
“Hallelujah. Praise God,” Dave Markham, Katelyn’s father said. “Mike Gmoser called me. I still am just trying to process this. My mind is still just going crazy.”
After Palmerton’s arrest, Markham said he met with investigators who had picked up the cold case.
“They had me feeling that they were on it and serious. It has happened a lot faster than I thought,” he said.
Palmerton, 35, of Fairfield, was scheduled to be back in court Thursday, but that pretrial hearing has been rescheduled to April 20. He is free on $50,000 bond set by Butler County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer McElfresh.
Credit: Nick Graham
Credit: Nick Graham
Palmerton’s indictment was sealed until Feb. 17 when search warrants were served and others were interviewed as part of an investigation into Markham’s death conducted by the prosecutor’s office, Gmoser said.
At that time, he said, “This is the first public step in a very long, detailed investigation,” noting multiple agencies, including the FBI have been involved. “The search that took place is not like McDonald’s where you get fast food or the results the same day.”
On Feb. 17, search warrants were executed at Carter’s former Fairfield residence where his mother lives and other residences of relatives of friends, according to Gmoser. Investigators from his office and the Fairfield Police Department also dug up yards looking for evidence.
Evidence was taken from the yards and homes. But Carter was not arrested at that time.
Palmerton was arrested Feb. 17 when he showed up for work at a Fairfield restaurant.
According to the indictment, on April 21, 2022, Palmerton is accused of making a false statement “under oath or affirmation, or knowingly swear or affirm the truth of a false statement previously made, when either statement is material.”
Palmerton is accused of lying in connection with the investigation. It is possible he was called to testify before a grand jury, and prosecutors are alleging he did not tell the truth. Gmoser said he is not permitted by law to divulge grand jury proceedings. No additional details, including discovery and the bill of particulars, have been filed in the case.
Katelyn’s father, Dave Markham, said Palmerton was part of the group — that inner circle — of friends his daughter and Carter socialized with in 2011.
What happened to Katelyn Markham and how she died has remained a mystery, despite a $100,000 reward and the efforts of multiple police agencies, private detectives, television shows and a movie.
Indiana State Police and at least two private detectives also have investigated the case with no arrests, just lots of theories.
In 2020, a Discovery ID channel show, “Still a Mystery,” featured Markham’s disappearance and death. There was renewed hope it may turn up fresh information leading to an arrest. It did not.
Markham’s disappearance was treated as a missing person case by Fairfield police when she vanished from her Dorshire Drive residence. She did not show up for work at David’s Bridal near Tri-County Mall.
Carter, called 911 to report her missing. In the call Carter said, “I know you’re not supposed to report a missing person before 24 hours, but my fiancée is missing, and I can’t find her anywhere.”
He pointed to an annual Fairfield festival as a possible connection.
“The Sacred Heart Festival is going on right up the street and there’s lots of questionable people there and it’s just kind of — I’m sorry,” says a person who identifies himself as Carter on the recording.
Markham left her car, keys, dog, and all personal belongings with the exception of her cellphone, at her townhouse. Her cellphone was turned off at about 12:45 a.m. Aug. 14, 2011. The GPS device on her phone also was turned off.
Police and volunteers searched for months and then years for the missing woman.
When the skeletal remains were found in August 2013 in a remote wooded area in Cedar Grove, Ind., within days, confirmation came that the remains were Markham’s.
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