HAMILTON, Ohio (WCPO) — More than a decade after her disappearance, the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office has made an arrest in the 2011 death of Katelyn Markham.
Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said Markham’s fiancé at the time she went missing, John Carter, was arrested Wednesday.
Carter has been charged with two counts of felony murder, according to Gmoser. He is in the Butler County Jail.
“Everybody is thrilled,” Markham’s father, Dave, said following the news. “This is the ending — or beginning of the end — and as everybody thought this … we all suspected that he had something to do with it.”
Markham was a 22-year-old art student residing in Fairfield when she vanished in August 2011. She did not show up for work at David’s Bridal near Tri-County Mall and Carter later 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.”
Markham left her car, keys, dog and all personal belongings with the exception of her cell phone at her townhouse. Her cell phone was turned off at about 12:45 a.m. on Aug. 14, 2011. The GPS device on her phone also was turned off.
Police and volunteers — including Carter — searched for months, and then years, for Markham. Carter told WCPO in an August 2011 interview he was “absolutely terrified.”
“I just want to find Katelyn and celebrate her birthday with her,” he said.
Carter said at the time he was hopeful Markham could “fight her way out” if she was somewhere “because she’s strong.”
When he spoke to WCPO that same month about being interviewed by police, Carter said he wasn’t worried.
“I know that I’m more than cooperative and I will always be cooperative until we get Katelyn back,” Carter said.
Markham’s skeletal remains were found in August 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 never been determined.
In an interview with WCPO after the remains were found, Dave Markham said had theories about her death that he did not want to speak about publicly. He did say the family did not see Carter “much anymore.”
In February, 35-year-old Jonathan Palmerton, a man Dave Markham said was his daughter’s friend at the time of her death, was indicted for perjury. Palmerton was scheduled to be back in court Thursday, but that pre-trial hearing has been rescheduled to April 20. He is free on a $50,000 bond set by Butler County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer McElfresh.
According to the indictment, 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” in April 2022.
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.
At the time of Palmerton’s arrest, Gmoser 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.”
That same day, 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.
What happened to 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.
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.
Now, Markham’s family said they are relieved to finally get answers.
“I’m numb, I’m ecstatic, I’m happy, obviously relieved,” said Dave Markham. “It’s about time — I think myself and a lot of other people were expecting this and were waiting for this for 12 years.”
This story was originally published March 22 by WCPO in Cincinnati, an E.W. Scripps Company.