Murder arraignment set for John Carter, accused of Fairfield fiancé's 2011 slaying

HAMILTON — John Carter will remain in the Butler County Jail at least until Monday, when he will be arraigned on the charge of murder for allegedly slaying fiancé Katelyn Markham in 2011.

Butler County Common Pleas Judge Dan Haughey will arraign Carter at 10:30 a.m. that day, but the hearing will be conducted in the county’s “super courtroom” that is reserved for cases that might draw a large public and media interest.

According to court officials, Chris Pagan, a Middletown attorney, will represent Carter. Pagan did not return calls seeking comment.

It took 12 years of investigating by multiple police agencies before the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office arrested Carter, 34, on Wednesday in the slaying of Markham in Fairfield. She vanished from her townhouse in August 2011 and her remains were found in Indiana in 2013.

Dave Markham, Katelyn’s father, said after learning his late daughter’s fiancé was behind bars and charged with her murder, he always suspected Carter had something to do with his daughter’s death.

“I chose my words very carefully in the past,” Dave Markham told the Journal-News.

He believes his daughter may have been trying to get away from her relationship with Carter in 2011, and that’s when everything went wrong.

County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said Carter is charged with two counts of murder under two sections of the law. The prosecution is not alleging Carter is responsible for two deaths.

According to the grand jury indictment from March 13 that was unsealed Thursday, one count is for the alleged purposeful killing, and the other is allegedly killing a person while committing a felony.

What is not part of the indictment are charges such such as tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse, both felonies, that might be expected given where Markham’s remains were found. That’s likely because the statute of limitations has run out on those charges.

According to the Ohio Revised Code, felonies, with the exception of murder, “time out” after six years, meaning a suspect cannot be charged outside that time limit.

Carter’s arrest came nearly a month after Jonathan Palmerton was indicted for perjury. He is a friend of Carter’s and a member of a tight circle of friends that included Markham.

“That is what (expletive) me off about this entire thing … now we think John Carter and possibly Palmerton has been walking around living their life for 12 years and a most-brilliant, vibrant woman has not,“ Dave Markham said. “And whoever has been living 12 years of their lives thinking they got away with murder. Katelyn has so much more potential than either one of the two that have been arrested, in my opinion.”

Markham was a 22-year-old art student residing in Fairfield when she vanished in August 2011. Her skeletal remains were found April 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 Wednesday.

Palmerton, 35, of Fairfield, was scheduled to be back in court this week, but that pre-trial hearing has been rescheduled to April 20. He is free on $50,000 bond set by Butler County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer McElfresh.

ExploreKatelyn Markham case: A timeline of events

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, which was taken from the yards and homes.

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.

Attorney Ken Crehan, who is representing Palmerton, told the Journal-News on Wednesday that he, too, is awaiting the evidence in the case. But the continuances were more about attorney logistics than a stall in the case.

“Because of Mr. Gmoser’s open-door policy I have been able to meet with him. Obviously, I cannot discuss what we have discussed,” Crehan said. “I had no idea until I got (word from the Journal-News) that Carter had been arrested.”

Crehan said Palmerton is not being charged with murder, only perjury.

“I don’t know what the state is doing because again everything seems to be kind of hush-hush at this point,” Crehan said. “I am going to continue to be steadfast and wait for discovery. Obviously, Mr. Gmoser’s office gathered some information in the case the nobody knows about.”

ExploreWhat will it take to solve the Katelyn Markham mystery after 11 years?

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.

ExploreLarge crowd for film about Katelyn Markham’s death

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 in August 2011 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 2013, in a remote wooded area in Cedar Grove, Ind., within days, confirmation came that the remains were Markham’s.

ExplorePolice have person of interest, seek public help in Markham case

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