Butler County sheriff has 2 'persons of interest' in deaths of 2 Fairfield women

Posted at 10:55 AM, Nov 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-17 09:38:23-05

HAMILTON Ohio -- The Butler County Sheriff's Office has two separate strong persons of interest in the deaths of Katelyn Markham and Chelsea Johnson, authorities announced Wednesday.

So far, there's not enough evidence for an indictment, and no one's been arrested in either case.

Sheriff's Maj. Mike Craft told WCPO media partner the Journal-News that investigators have narrowed down a list  of persons of interest to one individual.

"But we need some help with the case," Craft said.

Markham, a 21-year-old Fairfield art student who had recently become engaged, disappeared Aug. 13, 2011, just a few days before her birthday. Two years later, in April 2013, a man found her skeletal remains in a black garbage bag at a dump site along Big Cedar Creek, in Indiana.

Chelsea, 15, was stabbed to death and left in a creek about a mile from her Fairfield home in 2012. 

Fairfield police arrested a man in her death in 2014, but the grand jury didn't indict him. The case was left open. 

MORE: Four years after daughter's death, Fairfield mom pleads for help in solving case

"These are very tough cases for everyone involved," Sheriff Richard Jones said. "They were just kids honestly, and you really want someone to be brought to justice for these heinous acts."

Although Markham's death produced contractions of grief and outpourings of sympathy from communities across the Tri-State, no arrest was ever made. Her killer has never been identified.

Dave Markham, her father, said he's hopeful that whatever deputies have turned up will result in an arrest.

"It's very exciting," he said. "You know, it's never been said, 'We have a person of interest.'"

TIMELINE: History of the Markham case

"This case was heavily investigated by the Fairfield Police Department and the Indiana State Police before we took a look at it," Craft told the Journal-News. "We interviewed 20 people and conducted three polygraphs."

In December 2015, with the investigation back in the hands of Fairfield police, Katelyn's father asked the Butler County sheriff to take over. And in August, on what would have been Markham’s 27th birthday, Markham's family and friends gathered at the Springfield Cinema de Lux for the premiere of a documentary they hoped would shed more light on the circumstances of her death.


"We really want to see justice for Katelyn and today’s news has been a major break in that. We are very excited," said Michael Crisp, who directed “Taken Too Soon: The Katelyn Markham Story" when he heard the news Wednesday.

Crisp said at the documentary's premiere that he hoped someone would be moved to share new information about the case.

“(I hope) that they’ll watch this documentary and feel compelled to come forward and say, you know, Katelyn deserves justice, and I might not have been sharing everything I knew with investigators,” he said.

Jones asked that anyone with information about either case at Detective Joe Nerlinger at 513-759-7344.

"Even something that may seem small can be huge in helping these victims' families, and aid in getting those responsible off the street and behind bars," Jones said.