MOUNT VERNON — Debbie Kopatz, a bail bondsman, has a court date July 26 in Stark County to get out from under the bail she put up for Raymond Staats back in 2008. If Knox County Coroner Jennifer Ogle identifies the body found Wednesday in Butler Township as Staats, that would only confirm for Kopatz what she has known for a long time.
“I’m a happy woman,” Kopatz told the News on Sunday. “ [When the body was discovered], I was 13 days from losing $50,000.”
Without a positive identification, if a Stark County judge rules Staats left town while out on bail for a felonious assault charge, Kopatz would be required to pay the $45,000 remaining on his bond. That she said, would be a miscarriage of justice because she believes Staats has been dead for quite some time.
“Raymond couldn’t stay out of trouble that long (to be gone for 2 1/2 years),” Kopatz said. “ ... He’s in prison. He’s out. He’s in trouble. He’s in prison. He’s out.”
Staats’ brother, Norman Staats, concurs with Kopatz and believes his brother has been dead since he was reported missing on Jan. 9, 2009, by longtime friend Mary Serafini.
“I know it’s him,” Norman said of the body found Wednesday in a septic tank at 27700 Newcastle Road. “There’s no doubt in my mind he’s dead — he couldn’t stay out of trouble this long.”
According to Norman, Raymond’s connection with Mount Vernon and Knox County is John Stidham. He said the two men spent time in prison together, although he could not confirm which prison or when.
“I don’t keep track,” Norman said. “They were all in and out of prison all the time.”
Norman confirmed he has been in contact with detectives with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and Ogle and is confident they will confirm Raymond is dead and determine who killed him.
“I’m just going to let them do their job down there,” Norman said from his Canton home on Sunday.
Kopatz said she has struggled for over two years to get law enforcement to look into Raymond’s whereabouts, mostly to no avail.
“Do you have any idea how hard it is to get detectives to look for a career criminal? — It’s frustrating,” Kopatz said.
Kopatz told the News her bounty hunter told her months ago where the body was located but has had little luck getting anyone to take notice.
“I’ve always found everybody that’s ever ran,” she said. “Do you have any idea how hard it is to know where a body is and you can’t get any action?”
Walter Hall, a Canton-area bounty hunter, said he was very interested in the missing persons case when Kopatz first presented it to him.
“At first, I really wanted to prove he was alive,” Hall said.
Shortly after he started his investigation, Hall said he believed Raymond was dead and would be found in Knox County. Further investigation led him to believe Raymond would be found in a septic tank at 27700 Newcastle Road. Hall, however, declined to answer questions seeking details as to how he came to that conclusion.
“I’m not finished with this case,” Hall said. “When I am, I will tell you everything.”
Regardless of whether Raymond is dead or alive, Kopatz wants out from under the bond she holds on him and the tangled web of deceit that now comes with it.
Well aware of the criminal history of Raymond, and many of his siblings, Kopatz said Raymond was able to offer up everything she would need to take a case.
“Mary Serafini’s mom put up half of the $5,000 on her credit card and put her house, and Raymond put up his, for collateral. It was everything a bail bondsman wanted,” she said. “I was told he made a $250 payment to her. Why would he make a payment if he was going to run?”
Since Raymond went missing, his brother, Gary Staats, sold Raymond’s house for $12,000. According to Kopatz, Gary did so without revealing that she holds a $50,000 lien on the property as part of Raymond’s bail agreement.
“I’ve had to hire an attorney to go to Probate Court,” she said.
A positive identification, or cause of death, have yet to be released by Ogle. If DNA or dental records are needed to aid in the process, a longer time frame could be needed to provide the accurate report Ogle is seeking. A request seeking preliminary information from the autopsy has yet to be answered.