The investigation into the disappearance and death of Katelyn Markham continues, despite authorities ruling the cause of death as undetermined.
If Markham’s cause of death is never determined, bringing a killer to justice will be a formidable task. But experts and investigators say it is far from impossible.
What might break the case wide open is a little fragment of information someone knows. A witness or passerby may have seen something they don’t yet realize is vital in bringing Markham’s killer to justice, officials said this week. Police now must also rake through hundreds of interviews conducted immediately after Markham was reported missing two years ago.
“Someone planned and thought this out, this was well-planned – the lifeblood of an investigation is information, and if the information is no longer forthcoming, well then you’re kind of dead in the water,” said Vernon Geberth, the former commanding officer of the Bronx Homicide Task Force in New York. “This is not an easy case and people get frustrated ”
'Somebody Knows What Happened'
Geberth, who has worked on similar cases, cautions it can take months or years to arrest a suspect if a cause of death is never determined, because it takes a great amount of effort to build an impermeable case.
Franklin County, Ind., Coroner Wanda Lee determined Markham’s death a homicide earlier this week after her skeletal remains were examined by the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office and forensic experts in Indianapolis, said Indiana State Police Sgt. Noel Houze.
Markham, a 21-year-old art student engaged to be married, vanished seemingly without a trace two years ago from her Fairfield home. Indiana State Police and authorities in Fairfield have been tight lipped about the case, but said they intend to continue pursuing leads.
But the question still remains: What happened to Katelyn?
“The investigation will not be dropped, they will follow it as long they can,” Houze said. “At this point, investigators would be interested in any new leads. Because it’s been ruled a homicide, somebody knows what happen and somebody might have a clue to blow the case wide open.”
There are ways to move the investigation forward without knowing the cause of death.
“Just because you don’t have a cause of death, it doesn’t really change anything, “ said Fairfield police Officer Doug Day. “Investigators can work around that, through witness testimony and them giving you their statements when you have a forensic deficit like this case.”
Expert: Key Is In Relationships
Geberth, an author of several textbooks on investigating homicide and other deaths, said authorities are “back to square one.” Investigators must continue to analyze Markham’s known associates and the details of her life, which is done to compile information about lifestyle, he said.
“I still think the key is in the relationships, I think everybody that was involved with her – fiancé, friends, co-workers – all should have been polygraphed, interviewed and questioned to see if they all have alibis for the time she went missing,” Geberth said.
Katelyn Markham’s father, David, met with Indiana State Police investigators last week and was given a polygraph test. He said the test took several hours, but at no point did he feel like he was viewed as a suspect.
"The only thing is, why two years later?” Markham said about the test. “Why not two years ago? That was kind of the only thing that bothered me. If it has to be done it has to be done."
The fact that Markham’s remains were found 25 miles away from the Fairfield home she shared with her father indicates to Geberth her death was planned. Geberth noted that the person who dumped Markham’s remains might have inadvertently dropped something that could be used to identify a possible suspect now that her death has been declared homicide.
As the investigation continues, the vital piece of information that will bring Markham’s killer to justice may be in the hands of the public. Often, Geberth and Day said, people don’t realize the information they have can make or break a case.
“Somebody may have seen something they didn’t think was suspicious, but they saw something,” Geberth said. “You don’t ask somebody if they saw something suspicious, you ask ‘Did you see anything?’”