BUTLER TOWNSHIP — There is a strong possibility the remains of a man found in a Butler Township septic tank Wednesday are those of Raymond Staats of Canton, missing since January 2009. Knox County Coroner Jennifer Ogle said there were “clear signs of foul play” on the remains.
And who informed the authorities of the location of the body? Knox County Sheriff David Barber said, “Without the information directing us here, we probably wouldn’t have found it.”
But who is Raymond Staats and how, if the report expected today from the autopsy being performed in Licking County confirms his identity, did he wind up in a Newcastle Road septic tank behind an abandoned mobile home? His background has been spelled out twice in articles in the Canton Repository, the first four months after he disappeared, the second on April 4, 2010.
The articles reveal a man who had 70 criminal cases against him stretching back to 1986, having been convicted of theft, receiving stolen property, burglary, and breaking and entering. Most of the time, it involved cars.
He has spent time in prison. He is also listed on “Canton’s Most Wanted” with the notation, “This subject is very dangerous and highly volatile.”
He was also involved in a bitter intra-family dispute over his father’s estate.
His father, Norman E. Staats, died in June 2008 and left his house to Raymond. Raymond’s half-brother, Gary, who was in prison when their father died, contested Raymond’s inheritance of their father’s estate in court. He sought to have Raymond’s inheritance stopped and his being named as administrator of their father’s estate voided.
A sister, Virginia Shilling, fired a motion to block Gary from being named as administrator. Another brother, Jimmy Staats, is in prison for robbery, and a sister, Rene Gaul, is in prison for murdering her boyfriend.
Another player in the case, David Staats, a nephew (who also has a prison record), entered the fray in March 2010 when he asked Stark County Probate Court to declare Raymond Staats dead. He claims that Gary is the only person who claims to have seen Raymond alive since Jan. 9, 2009, that he has transferred Raymond’s property to himself, and that other family members are entitled to Raymond’s estate.
Barber said Wednesday that some time ago, the Stark County Sheriff’s Department had contacted Knox County with information that a man they were looking for may have come to Knox County. Barber said deputies pursued the investigation and “developed information” that the body might be found at the Newcastle Road site.
He confirmed that the site had been searched with cadaver-sniffing dogs some months ago, but found nothing. He did not explain how they came back with the specific intent of searching the septic tank.
Raymond Staats, who was 41 at the time, was reported missing on Jan. 14, 2009, by a friend, Mary Serafini, who said she had last talked to him on Jan. 9. She said that he had gone to Mount Vernon on that date with a friend, whom she refused to identify, to pick up a 1967 Mustang and deliver it to a North Canton man who had purchased it over the Internet.
He was supposed to call her when he returned from Mount Vernon. When he did not do so, she filed the missing person report.
He was also due for a court appearance in Canton on Jan. 14, 2009, for a hearing on a felonious assault charge stemming from a fight that occurred when he tried to repossess a car he had sold and another court appearance Feb. 3, 2009, in Massillon on a charge of aggravated menacing.
In posting bond to stay out of jail before those hearings Raymond had put up the house he had inherited as collateral.
While in prison (he was released in December 2008), Gary had accused Raymond of forging the deed to their father’s house. Then, 10 months after Raymond’s disappearance, Gary filed a quitclaim deed with the Stark County auditor dated Dec. 2, 2008, (before Gary was out of prison) and bearing a signature reading Raymond F. Staats.
Then, two months later, Gary was advertising the house for sale on Craigslist, at first asking $35,000 and 10 days later asking $14,000. He sold it for $12,000, but neglected to tell the buyer of the $50,000 lien against the property from its use as collateral for the appearance bond. He even provided a general warranty deed saying the property was “free and clear” of any liens.
Serafini said of Raymond in a Repository story: “Raymond’s known as a thief; that’s his ‘thing.’” Yet friends also said he was trying to fix up his old house and had plans to start a business.
The bail bond woman who holds the lien on his father’s house said Raymond never ran out on a bond.
Gary has claimed that Raymond is in California, staying with cousins and using another person’s name.
If the body is that of Staats, who brought him to Knox County and who did he deal with while here?