Paige Johnson’s remains presented as evidence as testimony continues

Day 4 in Jacob Bumpass trial
Published: Jul. 20, 2023 at 4:40 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 20, 2023 at 10:40 PM EDT
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BATAVIA, Ohio (FOX19) - The remains of 17-year-old Paige Johnson were presented as evidence in court Thursday as the trial continues for the man charged in connection with the case.

Jacob Bumpass is believed by prosecutors to be the last person to ever see Johnson alive before she disappeared. Court documents show that Bumpass, 34, of Finneytown, is not facing a murder charge but is facing felony charges of abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.

The defense team for Bumpass in opening statements said it’s impossible to know when Johnson’s remains were dumped in Clermont County.

Their goal is to prove the cell phone records, placing Bumpass in the county just after Paige’s disappearance, doesn’t necessarily mean he was in the area to dump a body.

“We always tried to understand his - why was he in Clermont County that night,” said Covington Detective Austin Ross on Thursday. “Was there family? Was there, what was out here? and we could never determine that.”

In 2020, Detective Ross got cell phone records that dated back to 2014 that showed Bumpass had not returned to the area in the seven years prior to Paige’s remains being discovered.

The timeline in this case is important for the prosecution, meaning when exactly the remains were dumped, how long they had been there and how they prove that point.

In their questioning of Detective Ross, they highlighted visual factors that would indicate her remains had been there for some time.

Prosecution: “At this point had the skull been moved or manipulated in any way?”

Detective Ross: “No sir, we had not moved it or manipulated it in any way at that time.”

Prosecution: “And what, if anything, can you tell the jury about the covering, the vegetation there around the skull?”

Detective Ross: “Yeah, obviously, there’s still some vegetation that’s growing up thru it and around it. Along with some sticks and branches on top.”

Other witnesses called to testify Thursday included Texas Equusearch’s Dave Rader, who helped with searches early near East Fork State Park.

The defense questioned Rader on why his teams didn’t search all around the cell tower after police had information Bumpass’ cell pinged there the morning Johnson went missing.

Defense: “You did not search that, it didn’t dawn to go look at that area?”

Rader: “I was only going off of what law enforcement wanted and that was to go to the front part and clear everything on Half Acre Road that was leading up into the park.”

Testimony from Rader and Jason Kendle, the man who found the remains, highlighted that the exact location of the remains was not explored by them after Paige went missing and before her remains were discovered in 2020.

Prosecutors had investigators highlight how dense the brush and woods were in the area her skull was discovered to highlight how it was not an area easily traveled through.

They also discussed how the remains were scattered and showed signs of being disturbed by animals.

Hair Fibers, blood found during vehicle search in Paige Johnson investigation, officers testify

Ronnie Ryder was dating 17-year-old Paige Johnson when she went missing in 2010.

He was called to the stand Wednesday and said he saw Johnson the night she went missing when he dropped off medicine at her mother’s apartment.

Ryder says when Johnson disappeared he was told Jacob Bumpass was the last to see her alive. Court documents show that Jacob Bumpass, 34, of Finneytown, is not facing a murder charge but is facing felony charges of abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.

He testified that he asked Bumpass about being the last to see her alive and says Bumpass told him that he dropped Johnson off at 15th and Scott in Covington near her sister’s house the night she disappeared.

A friend of Bumpass’ also testified that he told her the same thing.

Tawny Sanford says she was actually at Bumpass’ house when Johnson’s family members came over.

She says they politely asked Bumpass for information about that night and he gave them short answers before closing the door, saying he was going to get a lawyer.

Bumpass’ defense team claims he wasn’t acting weird but was rather just nervous about Johnson’s family and the police showing up at his house.

Brian Frodge, a former Covington police officer took the stand and talked about one of those visits.

Frodge: “We knocked on the door, and when we knocked on the door, we found out Jacob was trying to sneak out the back.”

Prosecutor: “As he was sneaking out the back, you made contact with him?”

Frodge: “Yes.”

Officers testified Wednesday that they executed a search warrant on Bumpass’ home and vehicle. In the vehicle, they say they found hair fibers and a spot of blood.

Prosecutors have said in court that Bumpass’ claims of dropping Johnson off in Covington are likely not true because they claim his phone pinged in Clermont County at the time he alleges he dropped her off.

Bumpass’s attorney hinted at the possibility of someone else seeing news coverage of search parties going to East Fork Lake looking for the body and that maybe someone else dropped Johnson’s body off at the lake so it can be found.

Almost a decade after she went missing, Johnson’s remains were found in March 2020 near East Fork State Park in Clermont County.

Bumpass has been questioned many times by police over the last 13 years.

The next witness brought to the stand was Clermont County Sherriff’s Deputy Sgt. Nick Crouch.

Jurors watched a video from March 2020 showing Sgt. Crouch walking through the area near East Fork State Park where Johnson’s body was found.

Crouch elected not to have his testimony recorded on Thursday but while on the stand Crouch testified the area was cleared of vegetation so investigators could thoroughly search the area.

The prosecution called their final witness to the stand, retired FBI Special Agent Kevin Horan.

After establishing a timeline of events, the prosecution asked Agent Horan about phone calls and texts between Bumpass and the victim.

Horan told the courtroom that phone records show Bumpass texted Johnson at 12:52 a.m. on Sept. 23, 2010, saying, “Do you want me to come get you and who you with?” One minute later, Bumpass again texted, “OK come out. Almost there.” Johnson replied, “Yes. Just me.”

The former FBI agent testifies those phones pinged off cellphone towers in Florence, Kentucky.

At 2:58 a.m., he says the cell phone pings show Bumpass was near his home.

Horan testifies Bumpass’s phone pinged off towers around 4:14 a.m., showing him in Batavia heading in the direction of where Johnson’s body was found before returning back to his home.

The defense then cross-examined Horan about the cell phone tower pings.

Defense: “The ping at 4:13 indicates it means he’s going east.”

Horan: “It appears that way from west to east. Yes.”

Defense: “And when he pings at 4:18 it appears he’s also going east?”

Horan: “Correct.”

The prosecution rested its side of the case and tomorrow the defense will have the opportunity to call their witnesses to testify. Court will resume at 10 a.m. on Friday.

The defense team for Jacob Bumpass in opening statements said it’s impossible to know when Paige Johnson’s remains were dumped in Clermont County.

Opening Statements - Paige Johnson’s Mom Takes the Stand

Opening statements on Tuesday in the trial for a man charged in connection with the 2010 disappearance and death of Florence teen Paige Johnson focused on the defendant’s cell phone records.

Court documents show that Jacob Bumpass, 34, of Finneytown, is not facing a murder charge but is facing felony charges of abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.

Prosecutors believe that Bumpass was the last person to see 17-year-old Johnson alive.

Records from Jacob Bumpass’ cell phone are the prosecution’s key piece of evidence in this case.

Prosecutors claim those records placed Bumpass in Clermont County on the morning of Johnson’s disappearance on Sept. 23, 2010. Those records, according to the prosecution, show his phone being used in Clermont County at 4:13 a.m. and 4:14 a.m.

“He drove to Clermont County, somewhere rural near the state park and he dumped her,” the prosecution said. “He dumped her with a complete disregard for the value of her life. He dumped her like she was nothing more than a bag of trash.”

The Prosecution says there is no other reason for Bumpass to be in that area at that time.

The defense says phone records from 2010 are not as accurate as they are today because there is no precise GPS location.

The defense also said the limited amount of remains that were found don’t give definitive answers as to when the body was left in the woods.

“They couldn’t really pinpoint perhaps some idea of when this body may have been exposed to the climates,” Bumpass’ defense team argued. “Could it have been the body was put there in 2011, 2012, 2013?”

The first witness to take the stand was Paige’s mother, Donna Johnson.

Her testimony is important for a couple of reasons: the defense had questions about Paige’s character and her testimony helps set the timeline for the night after Paige left her mother’s home, which is the night before her disappearance.

Prosecution: Did you ever have any contact with your daughter after that conversation?

Donna: No I did not. I don’t think I hugged her before she left either.

The cross-examination by the defense had to be stopped several times as Donna visibly and audibly became upset throughout.

Defense: Wasn’t it rather late at night for your daughter to go out? Is that common?

Donna: Uhm, I don’t know. You’re a parent, I guess, did, was sure it was probably late for her to go out. Am I on trial for being a bad mother? Because I’ll just tell them, I’m a bad mother. My daughter is gone, ok? I should have been a better mom and not have let her leave. I know that. You don’t have to remind me of it. I think about it every day.”

Donna Johnson also recalled a conversation she had with Bumpass at his front door after Paige’s disappearance.

She said the conversation was short-lived and Bumpass ultimately closed the door on her after she asked to see his phone and he refused.

Paige Johnson
Paige Johnson

Paige Johnson Case Background

Almost a decade after she went missing, Johnson’s remains were found in March 2020 near East Fork State Park in Clermont County.

Bumpass has been questioned many times by police over the last 13 years.

He was also arrested at one point for a parole violation, but until now he’s never faced charges connected to Paige Johnson’s case.

Over the years Johnson’s family has been vocal about their desire for him to speak up.

“I wonder if, you know, he thinks about her because we think about her every day. There’s not a day that has gone by that we haven’t thought about her and missed her so much,” Paige’s mother Donna said

“He needs to tell what happened and face the consequences. He has caused 12 years of suffering for our family,” Paige’s sister Brittany Haywood said.

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