Commonwealth Journal

May 6, 2014

Discovery of body leads to identification of missing woman

Details learned about suicide of Science Hill man, circumstances of mother's disappearance

by Chris Harris
Commonwealth Journal

Science Hill —

A body discovered in Wayne County last month has unraveled the mystery of a missing Science Hill woman and the suspicious circumstances surrounding the suicide of her son.
 According to the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department, the body found at a residence on Brammer Hill Ridge Road in the neighboring county on April 23 belonged to Faye B. Whiteford, who was 96 when she passed away.
Faye Whiteford had apparently been hidden away, wrapped inside a tarp, at the empty residence by her son Jon Whiteford, 59, who committed suicide in late March, according to the sheriff’s office.
Jon Whiteford, a native of Eubank, owned a computer company in Somerset and in Lexington.
The sheriff’s office had been involved into an investigation into the disappearance of Faye, a former teacher in the Pulaski County School System, since February, when local detectives were contacted by the state’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) asking for help in locating a Pulaski County woman and her son regarding a referral from the Social Security Administration.
Faye had been receiving Social Security benefits, the OIG informed the sheriff’s office, but had not made a medical claim of any type in about three years. That lack of medical billing for a 96-year-old flagged in the system the need for a check on her condition, possibly to verify if she might be deceased. OIG agents found no record that Faye had died after contacting the Office of Vital Statistics.
Sheriff’s detectives were also informed that Jon had access to his mother’s finances and would need to be contacted concerning her status.
Detectives located a property at 44 Maggie Lane in Science Hill that was registered in Faye Whiteford’s name, but it was found to be abandoned with no sign of occupancy.
As the investigation was being conducted, according to the sheriff’s office, Jon went to the local Social Security off to apply for his own benefits on March 6. He was interviewed at that time and again on March 13 by OIG agents and Somerset Police Department detectives.
In those interviews, Jon stated that he had no physical address and had been living out of his car after having his home repossessed. Additionally, Jon confirmed that his mother was deceased by refused to disclose how or when she died or the location of her body, according to the sheriff’s report.
Meanwhile, OIG agents continued to investigate and learned that Faye had been bedfast for several years and that Jon was her sole caretaker.
The case took a fatal turn on March 29, when Jon Whiteford committed suicide after speaking with a deputy. Jon was staying at a friend’s home on Maggie Lane, next door to his own property, while the owners were away (they lived in Lexington and had given Jon a key to help take care of the place while they were gone).
A sheriff’s deputy approached the home to speak with Jon, who turned a handgun on himself and committed suicide.
Lt. Brett Whitaker of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department noted that the suicide left a host of unanswered questions for investigators, as a search of both homes and the surrounding area revealed no sign of Faye Whiteford.
When asked if Jon’s actions indicated to authorities that he might have been involved in suspicious behavior, Whitaker noted that it was believed that was likely before the suicide.
“We were confident something else was going on anyway,” said Whitaker. “We just didn’t know what it was.
“When he committed suicide, it just told us that he was at the end of his rope, knowing information about his mom was coming out,” added Whitaker.
On April 22, Pulaski Sheriff’s detectives, as well as the Pulaski County Coroner’s Office and special agents with the OIG’s office, met with K-9 units from the Kenton County Sheriff’s Office and the Grant County Sheriff’s Office to search the area around the homes on Maggie Lane for any sign of Faye Whiteford’s remains. The dogs, specially trained to search for the scent of the deceased, were unable to find any trace of Faye Whiteford’s remains, according to the sheriff’s office.
As detectives searched deeper into Jon Whiteford’s activities before his death, they came across information that suggested Jon was trying to rent a piece of property at 2611 Brammer Hill Ridge Road in Wayne County. The residence is an older home in need of repair before it can be safely occupied.
On April 23, a detective with the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office went to that address to investigate, finding that the residence had been clearly unoccupied for some time. However, there were signs that made it appear that someone had been working on the home.
While looking around the property, the detective found a tied-up tarp, partially covered with a wooden box, in the front yard of the home. It appeared that someone had simply set the tarp out in the yard at the edge of the drive.
 After untying the tarp, a body was found inside. The body was sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Frankfort to be identified.
On Tuesday, the Kentucky State Police and Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department jointly released the confirmation that the body belonged to Faye Whiteford.
No cause of death is known yet, according to Kentucky State Police Trooper Lloyd Cochran. However, Whitaker did confirm that it appeared that Faye had died of natural causes before being hidden at the Wayne County site. 
Interviews with acquaintances of both Jon and Faye Whiteford revealed a number of details and facts. According to the sheriff’s department, this investigation — both before and after the discovery of Faye Whiteford’s remains — revealed that she had been bedfast at the Maggie Lane residence for several years, with Jon as her primary caregiver with power of attorney on record, giving him access to all her finances.
According to interviews with witnesses and acquaintances, Fay passed away sometime around the spring of 2011. Following this, Jon decided that he needed to continue drawing his mother’s Social Security and retirement benefits.
In what the sheriff’s office termed a “fateful decision,” Jon purchased a freezer and used it to hold his deceased mother’s remains from 2011 up until he was forced to move out of his home around Christmas of 2013, according to the sheriff’s office.
At that point, investigators believe, Jon was forced to clean out his residence and decided to take his mother’s remains to the Wayne County home he was preparing to rent.
With the very cold winter in the area, the remains likely stayed frozen until the spring of 2014, according to the sheriff’s department.
Details of this investigation have been shared with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office in Pulaski County. Since the person responsible for this heinous act is now deceased, no charges will be pursued.
There are still many unanswered questions in this investigation and detectives would like to speak with anyone who has had contact with Jon Whiteford over the last several months. Investigators would also like to speak with anyone who may have helped Whiteford clean out his home, or move any belongings from his home. 
Anyone with information is asked to call the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office at 606-678-5145.
“The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office would like to express our sympathy to the friends and family of Ms Faye Whiteford” said Sheriff Todd Wood. “Our thoughts and prayers are extended to them as they deal with the death of their loved one and the horrendous manner in which she was treated.”