KOKOMO, Ind. — Kokomo Police confirmed remains found in rural Miami County in July are those of missing 18-year-old Karena McClerkin. The Kokomo teenager had been missing since October 2016.
In July, police arrested 57-year-old Flint Vincent Farmer in connection with her murder.
The investigation found McClerkin was last seen at a residence in the 1000 block of South Washington Street in Kokomo.
Her disappearance was featured in an online story by NBC's "Dateline" as the case seemed to turn cold, and the family voiced frustration with the lack of an arrest.
The Kokomo Police Department's investigation into McClerkin's disappearance began Oct. 13, 2016, two days after she was first reported missing.
According to court documents, McClerkin's mother reported her missing and said she may be in danger and possibly with Farmer.
Police went to Farmer's apartment, and he allowed them to come inside and look for McClerkin. According to court documents, Farmer told police he had seen McClerkin near an alley, but she never came inside the apartment. He claimed she was with another woman and asked him for money, but he turned her away.
Witnesses told police McClerkin had been with Farmer on Oct. 11, 2016. They claimed Farmer purchased food and drugs and that was the last McClerkin was seen. Witnesses told police they heard what sounded like a fight next door and then a person gasping or whimpering. They told police they believed McClerkin was being hurt.
Gerry McClerkin, Karena's grandmother, shared details on the case to NBC's "Dateline" in 2017.
She said the two were close, holding hands whenever she dropped her off. But Karena had reportedly been seeking help for a number of substance abuse issues before she went missing, filling out paperwork to go to a rehab facility in Florida and working to improve her life.
The teenager disappeared before she got a chance to do that.
Gerry told "Dateline" she heard rumors her granddaughter had been killed and put in a tarp, buried in a wooded area, or thrown into a waterway.
Over the years, she had lost faith her granddaughter might still be alive.
"It's just a horrible mess, and the things you hear just make you sick," Gerry said. "I didn't want to believe she was dead. It took me a while to accept that idea."
In 2018, police began reviewing phone calls made by Farmer while he was in jail between Nov. 2016 and Nov. 2018 on a charge of dealing a controlled substance. In one of the phone calls, a person allegedly told Farmer that police had not found McClerkin yet and for Farmer to "keep his mouth shut and not say anything."
Court documents allege in another phone call, Farmer told a woman to keep her mouth shut about what she saw and "they would not find a body."
Until at least October 2019, WTHR's Jalea Brooks reported the McClerkin family was still having problems bringing attention to the case.
In 2021, investigators said they received additional information about Karena McClerkin’s disappearance, as well as the events that took place the following day.
An affidavit was submitted to the Howard County Prosecutor's Office as a result of investigating that information, and Farmer was arrested July 18, 2022.
As the investigation continued, on the evening of July 18, 2022, investigators followed evidence which led to a rural area of Miami County as a possible location of the deceased body of Karena McClerkin.
Skeletal remains were found, and an autopsy was scheduled for July 22. The specific cause and manner of death is still being examined and a report pending by the Miami County Coroner’s Office and forensic scientists.
DNA testing was provided to the Kokomo Police Department on Aug. 5, and it confirmed the remains as belonging to Karena McClerkin.
This case remains active for investigation. Anyone with additional information is asked to contact Lieutenant Richard Benzinger at 765-456-7324 or the Kokomo Police Department Hotline at 765-456-7017. People may qualify for a cash reward by calling Central Indiana Crime Stoppers at 1-800-262-TIPS with their anonymous tip.