EXPLAINER: What is the Katelyn Markham death case, and who is involved?

For 12 years, authorities in multiple jurisdictions, including Butler County, have been investigating the death of Fairfield woman Katelyn Markham. The case gained national media attention in the years that followed as Markham’s remains weren’t discovered until two years after she went missing.

In this article, the Journal-News highlights the significant moments in the case.

Who was Katelyn Markham?

In August 2011, Katelyn Markham went missing from her Fairfield home. She was a 22-year-old art student. Family members described her as a “light” who was warm and showed compassion to others. In a documentary about her death, her younger sister Ally said Katelyn “always took care of me.” Friends and family said she was motivated and had a bright personality.

Who reported that Katelyn vanished?

Markham was reported missing from her Dorshire Drive condo by her fiancé, John Carter. He called 911 to report her disappearance, which was treated as a missing person case by Fairfield police. She also did not show up for work at David’s Bridal near Tri-County Mall. Police and volunteers spent the months after looking for her. She left behind her purse, keys and her dog.

When were her remains discovered?

In 2011, police and volunteers looked for months to find Markham. In the spring of 2013, her skeletal remains were found in a remote wooded area in Cedar Grove, Ind. That is 30 minutes from her Fairfield home. In 2015, at the urging of her father, Dave Markham, the Butler County Sheriff’s Office put fresh eyes on the case. After months of investigation, sheriff’s detectives announced there was a suspect in the case, but not enough information for a prosecution.

How did Katelyn die?

Franklin County, Ind. Coroner Wanda Lee ruled Markham’s death a homicide. However, the exact cause of death could not be determined. In April 2014, the Markham family was surprised to learn additional remains, believed to be Katelyn’s, were found in the same Cedar Grove, Ind. location.

“I think about her constantly,” Dave Markham said of Katelyn in 2022. “Some anniversaries and holidays are really hard. There is really no rhyme or reason for when it hits me hard.”

Credit: Greg Lynch

Credit: Greg Lynch

Was anyone a suspect?

A reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Markham’s killer grew to $100,000 over the years. Until this week, there were no suspects named. The case was heavily investigated by the Fairfield Police Department, the Indiana State Police and eventually the Butler County Sheriff’s Office. There have also been private investigators involved.

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. That television segment recapping the case pointed to multiple persons of interest, including Michael Strouse, a man convicted in the 2019 death of 23-year-old Ellen “Ellie” Weik at his Liberty Twp., Ohio home. Within hours after Strouse’s arrest, Fairfield police confirmed a meeting with the West Chester Police Dept., which investigated the Weik case. Strouse was not charged with any crime in the Markham case.

Now, Markham’s fiancé at the time of her death, John Carter, is in the Butler County Jail. He was arrested March 22, 2023 and charged with murder.

While not a suspect, a man named Jonathan Palmerton was arrested in February 2023 and charged with perjury in connection to the case. 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. The Butler County prosecutor said he is not permitted by law to divulge grand jury proceedings.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Where can I learn more about the case?

In August 2016, on Katelyn’s 27th birthday, family and friends gathered at a Springdale, Ohio movie theater to watch the premiere of a documentary chronicling her disappearance and death. The hour-long documentary, entitled “Taken Too Soon: The Katelyn Markham Story,” explores the ongoing homicide investigation and unanswered questions. Michael Crisp, of Remix Films in Georgetown, Ky., produced the documentary. Crisp was hired by an anonymous victim’s advocate group to bring Markham’s story to the big screen.

In July 2016, Markham’s case was featured on the syndicated TV show “Crime Watch Daily.”


Father suspected fiancé John Carter, who is now under arrest (March 2023)

Jonathan Palmerton, accused of perjury, arraigned (February 2023)

What will it take to solve the Katelyn Markham mystery after 11 years? (September 2022)

Unsolved Butler County homicide featured on national murder mystery show (June 2020)

Katelyn Markham death investigators in contact with West Chester police after man’s arrest (August 2018)

Detective: We continue to follow leads in Katelyn Markham death (August 2016)

New twist in Katelyn Markham case (December 2015)

Reward now at $100K in Katelyn Markham case (August 2015)

Katelyn Markham: No answers 3 years later (August 2014)

More skeletal remains believed to be of Katelyn Markham (April 2014)

Texas search team maps area to look for Katelyn Markham (August 2011)

Editor’s note: Content and information provided here is by Journal-News Staff Writer Lauren Pack.

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