John Carter case: Prosecutors list more than 100 pieces of evidence

The trial of John Carter, the man accused of killing Fairfield’s Katelyn Markham in 2011, is a year away, but evidence collected by the prosecutor’s office for months that led to the indictment in the cold case has been turned over to the defense — all 107 plus items.

Carter, Markham’s fiancé when he reported her missing from her Fairfield townhouse, is free on $1 million bond after the March indictment. The case is scheduled for a pretrial conference Tuesday in Butler County Common Pleas Court.

It took 12 years of investigation by multiple police agencies before the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office arrested Carter, 34, on March 22 in Markham’s death that happened on or about Aug. 13, 2011. Her remains were found in Indiana in 2013.

On June 26, prosecutors filed a list of “documents and tangible evidence” in the case that includes 13 written statements; 63 individual interviews and/or polygraphs; tips from the public; phone records; work records; Facebook, Yahoo and Google records; dental records; vehicle records; property records; Fairfield Police, Forest Park Police, Indiana State Police, Butler County Sheriff’s Office and county prosecutor’s office reports; news media coverage, and interviews throughout the years investigation, specifically interviews with Carter.

Prosecution evidence also includes 12 items from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, handwritten notes of Carter’s statements, jail calls, anthropology report, forensic entomology investigation report, Hamilton County crime lab report, Carter’s laptop, Carter’s cellphone, Markham’s laptop, a letter from Katelyn to her father, Dave Markham, and an email from Katelyn to Carter dated Aug. 13, 2011, package packing slip and photos of text messages from Karyn Winkler, Carter’s mother.

Numerous photos are also listed, including photographs of a “ring” that is likely Katelyn’s engagement ring that was never found, photos of Murphy, Katelyn’s dog in 2011 found her residence, photos of “involved people,” photos of scratches, map photos, and “Strouse” photos.

Michael Strouse was convicted in 2019 of the death of 23-year-old Ellen “Ellie” Weik at his Liberty Twp. home. Within hours after Strouse’s arrest, Fairfield police, who initially investigated the Markham case, confirmed a meeting with the West Chester Police Department, which investigated the Weik case.

A photo also surfaced in 2019 of Strouse at a gathering picturing him with Markham and others.

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said the photos listed in discovery are part of the investigation by his office and others for any connection to Markham’s death. He declined to comment any further.

Strouse is in prison and is not charged with any crime in the Markham case, so it is likely the prosecutor’s investigation eliminated Strouse as a suspect. Prosecutors often investigate to eliminate any other possible suspects, especially before seeking an indictment.

Carter’s defense team, led by Middletown defense attorney Chris Pagan, did not respond to request for comment on the discovery filed.

Carter was last in court in April for a pretrial hearing, a couple weeks before search warrants that led to his indictment were unsealed.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The affidavits pointed to circumstantial evidence for the murder charge against Carter using computer data, cellphones and witness statements, but do not give a cause death or proof she was killed.

Gmoser said in April the case is circumstantial, as are many, but that doesn’t mean the evidence, coupled with corroborating experts and witnesses, isn’t compelling.

“Even a body is not necessary to have a conviction for murder,” Gmoser said. “Defendants are still proven guilty without a body. That’s not an impossible situation.”

Markham was found nearly two years after she vanished. The condition of the remains made collecting evidence challenging.

In 2013, a group of forensic anthropologists examined the remains found dumped in Indiana and concluded the body was taken there while already decomposed. And there was trauma to Markham’s left wrist, described as “sharp force trauma” caused by a bladed weapon. The three wounds could have been made during dismemberment, the report said.

Markham’s death was ruled a homicide by a Franklin County, Ind., coroner, but the condition of the body meant a cause of death could not be determined. In other words, science cannot determine how or if the free-spirited woman, days away from her 22nd birthday, was slain.

According to the court documents unsealed April 25, witness statements from friends and observers of the couple in the days leading up to Markham’s disappearance say she was trying to break away from her engagement.

Markham said she felt “trapped” in the relationship, according to court documents.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The 24-page document with uncharged suspects’ names redacted shows the investigation by prosecutor’s investigators that began in January 2020, building on prior work by police on the cold case and gathering new evidence, especially statements from people interviewed in Colorado and Florida.

A friend and college classmate of Markham was interviewed by prosecutor’s investigator Paul Newton on Jan. 12, 2023, and the person said in August 2011, after reporting Markham missing from her Fairfield townhouse, Carter “repeatedly referred to Katelyn in the past tense.”

The friend told investigators that in the three to six months prior to her disappearance, Markham confided to her “(she) was unhappy being engaged to John Carter and felt trapped in the relationship.”

Markham was unhappy with Carter’s lifestyle, including what she said was heavy use of drugs and pornography.

Others interviewed in the days before Markham went missing observed the couple acted liked like they were “breaking up” or in an argument.

During interviews in 2011, Fairfield detectives observed scratches on the left side of Carter’s neck. He indicated it was from an electric razor, but in later interviews, he said he didn’t know where he got the scratches, according to the court document.

Cellphone data from Carter’s Cricket Android and Markham’s Blackberry show both show inactivity for hours on Aug. 14, 2011. Markham’s phone “went dark” at 12:06.13 a.m. and Carter’s went inactive at 12:04.02 a.m. for 15 hours, according to court documents.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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