MOUNT VERNON — John M. Stidham, 46, Walhonding, will serve four years in a state prison for involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 death of Raymond Staats, a Canton man who was reported missing on Jan. 9, 2009. Stidham told law enforcement he acted in self defense after Staats threatened to kill Stidham’s family and fired shots at Stidham.
“There was a very sizable argument that occurred that day where Mr. Staats had stated that he ‘was going to kill everybody in the house,’” said Knox County Public Defender Bruce Malek. Staats reportedly retrieved a gun from Stidham’s car and proceeded to fire shots at Stidham. An altercation followed. Malek said Stidham “indicated he didn’t have any specific recollection of firing the gun.”
While in the Knox County Jail, Stidham confessed to law enforcement and provided the information that led to the inspection of a septic tank on property Stidham used to own and where he once resided.
“At some point, Mr. Stidham became a person of interest with regard to Mr. Staats,” said Malek. “There were inquiries as to what information he had. And as a result of those inquiries, we ultimately were able to reach a resolution with charges which had been filed in April.”
Neither Malek or Knox County Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Springer believe anyone else was involved in Staats’ death.
“We don’t anticipate any additional charges on other people being filed,” said Springer. “There were several other associates of John Stidham that provided some in-formation that they were told. That was part of the in-vestigation which has been ongoing for the past several months.”
According to Springer, this case began when Mount Vernon Police Detective Craig Feeney investigated Stidham’s ex-wife, Cami Stidham, for theft from her em-ployer. After multiple search warrants were executed on property owned and leased by both Cami and John Stidham, stolen property was re-covered, some of which was traced back to Stark County, where Raymond Staats was from.
After an extensive investigation by the Knox County Sheriff's Office, led by Detective Sgt. Roger Brown, it was learned that Raymond Staats may have been killed and pos-sibly buried in Knox County.
The Knox County Sheriff’s Office reportedly followed up on multiple leads. “It didn’t pan out until we were led to where the body was,” said Springer, who believes that local law enforcement was not encouraged to investigate the septic tank prior to last week. Springer was unable to answer why she thought Stidham killed Staats, why Stidham finally came forward with news about Staats’ body two and one-half years later, or if John’s sentencing will affect Cami’s jury trial for aggravated theft scheduled for Tuesday.
Knox County Sheriff David Barber began investigation when Stark County officials came to him with a missing person’s case. “We did have information, but there was no way to get on the properties. We had to get numerous search warrants,” said Springer. “There was not enough probable cause to get on the property or to look into it any further.”
Questions then emerged about a Ford F250 located in the Mount Vernon City impound lot which contained a Mossberg shotgun. “I do believe [the truck] belonged to Raymond Staats,” said Springer. When asked if this was the weapon used to shoot Staats, “No, I don’t believe it was,” Springer said. The kind of weapon used to kill Staats is known, she said, but was unavailable to her when she spoke with the News on Thursday.
Calls to law enforcement at the Stark County Sheriff’s Office seeking comment were unreturned at press time.