KOKOMO, Ind. — Investigators believe they’ve found the remains of an 18-year-old Kokomo woman who disappeared in 2016.
During a news conference Wednesday, Kokomo Police Chief Doug Stout said investigators discovered skeletal remains in Miami County during a search of a rural area on Tuesday. The remains are believed to be those of Karena McClerkin, who was last seen on Oct. 11, 2016.
The search for the remains involved personnel from the Kokomo Police Department, Indiana State Police, the Howard County Coroner’s Office and the Miami County Coroner’s Office, Stout said.
The remains have been transported to Fort Wayne for positive identification. McClerkin’s family has been contacted.
Police announced the arrest of 57-year-old Flint Farmer this week. He was taken into custody Monday afternoon. Additional arrests are anticipated, according to Stout.
McClerkin was last seen on Oct. 11, 2016, and was reported missing two days later. The case had remained unsolved for more than five years.
During Wednesday’s news conference, Stout said investigators received crucial information in the fall of 2021 that led them to request the resources and assistance of Indiana State Police. Those additional resources, Stout said, led to Wednesday’s announcement.
“As you can imagine, we’re all very hopeful in the identification process to be able to come to a conclusion in this investigation for all the family and friends that have been grieving,” said Stout.
Once Stout finished with his brief announcement, a member of McClerkin’s family took exception with the department’s characterization of the investigation. The woman, identified as McClerkin’s grandmother, Gerry McClerkin, countered that the family had provided police with much of the pertinent information and tirelessly kept the case in the public eye.
“I’m glad they found Karena. I really am. It’ll bring that much closure and she can be put to rest,” said Gerry McClerkin.
Still, Karena’s grandmother is upset because from day one the primary suspect was 57-year-old Flint Farmer. She wonders why it took nearly six years for Farmer to be arrested for the killing.
“My granddaughter has been laying out there for six years,” said Gerry. “We want them held accountable because they sat on this for five and a half years.”
While he didn’t answer any questions about how police were led to the remains, Kokomo’s police chief insists his office has worked tirelessly to solve Karena’s case.
“Since the time of the initial report, investigators with this department have followed up on every piece of information and tip and will continue to do so,” said Stout.
According to court documents, McClerkin’s family said she walked into a house on S. Washington Street and never came out. The home was the site of Farmer’s apartment. Officers didn’t find her after a search; Farmer said she’d been outside in the alley but had never come inside.
According to court documents, surveillance video from a nearby Village Pantry showed Farmer, McClerkin and a third individual visiting the convenience store around 10 p.m. on the night of her disappearance and leaving at 10:32 p.m.
Multiple witnesses told investigators McClerkin was at Farmer’s apartment that night. Some of them recounted hearing Farmer and a woman “wrestling” in a room and others recalled the sounds of a woman “being hurt.”
McClerkin may have stolen $600 from Farmer’s safe, according to a recorded phone call McClerkin’s mother provided to police. Farmer and McClerkin had also been involved in Xanax deals, witnesses told investigators.
One witness told police they saw someone who was covered up lying on Farmer’s floor on the morning of Oct. 12, 2016.
According to court documents, Farmer alluded to McClerkin’s disappearance multiple times during phone calls from prison, where he was incarcerated on a drug dealing charge. He told one person to “keep his mouth shut and not say anything” when they informed him that police hadn’t located McClerkin.
He told another woman she would “end up like her,” referring to McClerkin, if she failed to stay quiet about the 18-year-old’s disappearance. He warned others against cutting deals to get out of jail, according to court documents.
Police investigated the case for years. They re-interviewed key witnesses who said McClerkin had been with Farmer on Oct. 11, 2016. Others reiterated hearing a struggle that night.
On June 30, 2022, police used Luminol, a water-based solution that can detect blood that has been diluted up to 10,000 times, to check the detached garage at the S. Washington address. The Luminol test showed the floor just inside the walk-through service door had blood stains, which were collected and given to Indiana State Police for testing.
A forensic pathologist in Fort Wayne is working on positive identification of the remains found in Miami County this week.
Police say additional arrests are anticipated.