For Paige Johnson’s family, yearly gathering soothes pain of her absence

One of Paige’s sisters will soon be older than the 17-year-old was when she disappeared, an uncanny distinction that has her seeking comfort in familiar places.
Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 10:23 PM EDT
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COVINGTON, Ky. (WXIX) - Friday marks 12 years since Paige Johnson went missing. Still without the closure they need, her family continues to wonder what happened that night in September 2010 when Johnson disappeared.

The 17-year-old’s remains were found in Clermont County in March 2020.

Jacob Bumpass, a man the family has always suspected in the case, was indicted four months later on criminal charges including abuse of a corpse and evidence tampering but not murder.

According to police, Bumpass was the last person to see Johnson alive after he says he dropped her off in Covington. Prosecutors say evidence places Bumpass in Clermont County near where Paige’s remains were found.

Paige left behind a young daughter.

“It’s not going to be over for me until I take my last breath on this earth,” said Donna Johnson, Paige’s mother.

Paige Johnson
Paige Johnson(Provided)

The family returned to Devou Park in Covington Friday to remember Paige. They lay flowers and wreaths against a tree they planted in 2019.

“My stomach is in knots on this day,” said Alicen Franks, Paige’s cousin. “It’s scary.”

Paige’s remains still have not made their way to the family because the criminal investigation is ongoing, police say.

Paige’s family says they don’t even know if any personal items were found with her. They’ll have to attend Bumpass’s trial in person to get the facts.

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

Bumpass’ last pre-trial hearing is Monday. His trial is scheduled to begin in October.

“A piece of my mom is gone forever, and so I’ll never get that piece of my mom back,” said Araya Holliman, Paige’s sister.

Holliman turns 17 next year, the same age Paige was when she disappeared.

“In seven months,” she said, “I’ll be older than my sister.”

The threshold marks yet another experience unique to the life of a murder victim’s family member. She’s catching up to her older sister, closing in on her denouement—and following in her footsteps.

Indeed, Holliman says Paige’s final years are the same she’s living out now. Paige was a cheerleader, and Holliman is one as well. Paige went to Simon Kenton High School; Holliman transferred there too.

“I think about how she was there, and it just makes me feel close to her,” Holliman said.

It wasn’t all tears Friday. Paige’s family laughed as they shared memories of her as a child.

“Every time she would hide,” Donna said, “she’d be behind the curtains and she would yell, ‘I’m not behind the curtains!’”

But the pain remains, and it’s clear Paige’s absence is all-consuming.

“She had a beauty that really just came from inside and shined out on everybody,” Donna said.

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