David Staats filed papers with the Stark County Probate Court on March 8, 2010, seeking the court’s approval to have Raymond declared dead since he had not been seen or heard from since 2009. According to the original document, David states Raymond’s half-brother Gary transferred Raymond’s property to himself while Gary was incarcerated. The quitclaim deed was allegedly signed by Raymond on Dec. 2, 2008, approximately a month before Raymond went missing.
Gary filed the deed transfer document with the Stark County Recorder’s Office on Oct. 13, 2009, nine months after Raymond was last seen.
Probate Judge Dixie Park ordered David Staats’ attorney Patrick Cusma to file a brief as to why the court should declare Raymond dead even though the case does not meet the standards set by the Ohio Revised Code.
The ORC allows for three circumstances in which the presumption of death can occur:
•When a person has disappeared continuously for a period of five years without being heard from or seen;
•When a person has disappeared continuously for a period of less than five years but was exposed to a “specific peril” at the beginning of the disappearance; or
•When a person on active military duty has been missing or missing in action, a presumption of death can be approved under the Federal Missing Persons Act.
Cusma contended that the timing of Gary Staats’ release from jail and Raymond’s disappearance, along with what Cusma calls “forged” deeds placed Raymond in specific peril.
“That his brother had just been released from prison and had a long-standing dispute with Raymond Staats, put Raymond in specific peril of death,” Cusma said in his brief filed on Dec. 9, 2010. “Given the unusual set of circumstances involved in this case, there can be credible evidence that Raymond Staats disappeared under a specific peril of death ...”
On Jan. 18, just over two years after Raymond went missing, Judge Park denied the request to have Raymond declared dead stating the circumstances do not equate to specific peril.
“The fact that Gary was released from prison soon before Raymond’s disappearance and the potential that documents transferring property from Raymond to Gary were forged, do not constitute unusual or extraordinary dangers that might reasonably be expected to destroy life,” Park wrote in her judgment.
No appeals to Park’s decision have been filed.
A call to Cusma seeking comment was unreturned.