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

Butler County Prosecutor’s Office looking at the case.

It has been 11 years since Katelyn Markham went missing from her Fairfield home during the early morning hours of Aug. 14, 2011. Nine years ago, her skeletal remains were found in a remote wooded area in Cedar Grove, Indiana.

But what happened to the 22-year-old art student and how she died remain a mystery, despite a $100,000 reward and the efforts of multiple police agencies, private detectives, television shows and a movie.

So what is it going to take to solve Markham’s homicide case?

“A confession. Someone walking in and having a guilty conscience,” said Dave Markham, Katelyn’s father.

“Nobody is doing anything about it anymore. I don’t think Fairfield (police) ever really tried. Butler County (Sheriff’s Office) tried for awhile …”

Indiana State Police and at least two private detectives have also investigated the case with no arrests, just lots of theories.

When asked if his office in investigating the Markham case, Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said, “Absolutely. And hold my cards close to the vest.”

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 Markham 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. home.

Within hours after Strouse’s arrest, Fairfield police confirmed a meeting with the West Chester Police Department, which investigated the Weik case.

Strouse has not been charged with any crime in the Markham case.

Even after the 2020 television spotlight, the Markham case remains unsolved.

Markham’s disappearance was treated as a missing person case by Fairfield police when she vanished from her Dorshire Drive residence. A missing person’s report was filed after she did not show up for work at David’s Bridal near Tri-County Mall.

Markham’s fiancé, John 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 themselves as John 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. on 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.

Then on April 7, 2013, skeletal remains were found in a remote wooded area in Indiana about 30 miles from Fairfield. Within days, confirmation came that the remains were Markham’s, and the Franklin County Coroner ruled her death a homicide. However, her exact cause of death could not be determined.

Fairfield Police Maj. Becky Ervin said the case is “technically” under the jurisdiction of the Indiana State Police, but when asked for an update, she said, “It is still an open investigation so we cannot comment further.”

Credit: Greg Lynch

Credit: Greg Lynch

Detective Vance Patton of the Indiana State Police said his agency led the investigation after her body was found in their state. But she went missing from Fairfield, and there is no indication that she died where her remains were found.

With the hefty reward for information about Markham’s death that has turned up nothing, Patton believes that points to one person being involved.

“We have not had one credible piece of information, even with the $100,000. Someone is good at keeping quiet,” Patton said.

While it’s possible Markham’s death was an accident and her remains were dumped, a crime was still committed.

In 2015, at the urging of 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.

“This case was heavily investigated by the Fairfield Police Department and the Indiana State Police before we took a look at it. We interviewed 20 people and conducted three polygraphs,” Maj. Mike Craft said in November 2016.

“We were given a list of several people of interest and we have narrowed it down to a strong person of interest, but we need some help with the case.”

In other words, someone needed to come forward with more concrete information for the successful prosecution of the person or people responsible for Markham’s death or disposal of her body.

Butler County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer said last week that “the detectives that worked it have some theories, and they have pretty much exhausted what they can do with the manifest we have.”

“Cases like this can be very difficult. It doesn’t unfold like on TV. Sometimes people involved in nefarious acts get lucky.” Dwyer said. “And the more people involved expand your ability to get leads. There’s the old saying, two people can keep a secret when one of them is dead.”

Dave Markham said he has heard all the theories over the years and that “I really don’t know what to think anymore.”

At the beginning of the investigation, Markham said he was treated like a suspect, but he does not feel that way anymore after passing multiple lie detector tests.

“I took two (polygraph tests). One for Indiana and Butler County. I was the first one to be polygraphed,” he said.

He said he does think Katelyn’s death was accidental and someone moved her body to Indiana. He can not think why anyone would want to kill his daughter, “unless the (the suspect) just lost his temper.”

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

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