BUTLER TOWNSHIP — A body found in a septic tank behind an abandoned mobile home Wednesday afternoon may have been there as long as two years.
Knox County Sheriff David Barber said the body may be that of a man reported missing in Stark County about two years ago, but identification will have to wait until after an autopsy Friday.
The body was sent to the Licking County Coroner’s Office by order of Knox County Coroner Jennifer Ogle.
Barber said a man named Raymond Staats, who was born Dec. 6, 1967, was reported missing in Stark County two years ago. Stark County deputies found information that indicated Staats may have come to Knox County.
For over a year, Knox County detectives have been putting together the pieces of Staats’ presence in the county.
“Over the past several months, information was developed that he possibly was killed in Knox County and his remains can be found here,” Barber said at 27700 Newcastle Road, where investigators from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification, along with detectives from Knox and Stark counties, searched for the body. The property is owned by Cami Stidham.
Barber also confirmed a report that the property had been searched by cadaver dogs earlier this year, but nothing was found.
Investigators began the job of unearthing the septic tank on Wednesday about 1 p.m. A backhoe and a truck from Sims On-Site Sanitation was also at the scene, which Barber confirmed were used to access the tank and empty its contents.
“We utilized Small’s Sand and Gravel, as well as Sims Sanitary septic tank pumping business,” Barber said. “They were able to pump the septic tank out. It was probably about 5 feet deep and the body was, of course, inside the septic tank.”
Barber emphasized that he could not confirm the body is that of Staats and he will probably not have any updates on the case until after the autopsy Friday.
Stidham was indicted in December 2010 on charges of aggravated theft after allegedly stealing over $400,000 from her employer Tracy and Mills Surveyors. Stidham’s ex-husband, John Stidham, remains in the Knox County Jail under a $100,000 bond for 30 charges ranging from receiving stolen property, insurance fraud, complicity in the commission of aggravated theft and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.
In 2003, John Stidham was found guilty by a Knox County jury on charges of receiving stolen property after he sold a vehicle with a fictitious title to a third party. The vehicle had been reported stolen by a previous owner.
When asked by the News if John Stidham could be involved in the case, Barber answered, “possibly.”
Bill Stokes, who lives across the highway, shook his head at the news a body had been recovered and expressed surprise that someone could have hidden a body there without someone noticing.
“I left here at noon and the deputies were here when I came back at 2:30 p.m.” he said.
According to an article published June 8, 2009, by the Canton Repository, a friend of Raymond Staats said he was last seen Jan. 9, 2009, when he was coming to Mount Vernon to pick up a car that an unidentified Canton man purchased over the Internet. She said Staats had been paid to pick up and deliver a 1967 Mustang.
Mary Serafini told the Repository that Staats called her at 5:34 p.m. and confirmed he had the vehicle. Twenty minutes later, the unidentified man called Serafini to see if she had heard from Staats as he failed to meet up with him as planned.
According to Stark County Common Pleas Court records, Staats has an extensive list of criminal activity which includes burglary, receiving stolen property, fleeing from police and domestic violence.
Calls to Stark County Sheriff Timothy Swanson, Mary Serafini and Cami Stidham were unreturned at press time.