Ahead of suspect’s court hearing, a look back at the disappearance and death of Paige Johnson

Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 10:43 PM EST
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NORTHERN KENTUCKY/CLERMONT COUNTY (WXIX) - In January, the suspect facing charges in connection to the death of a Northern Kentucky teen will appear in court once again.

Paige Johnson was 17 when she disappeared in late September 2010. The young mother vanished after leaving her home in Florence, causing her mother Donna Johnson to feel heartbroken and devastated.

“I miss her, and all of this that’s happened, it’s like living hell, and it’s like I’m always in a nightmare,” Donna said in 2020.

Within weeks of Paige’s disappearance, there were countless searches taking place, on land, on horse and on water.

Flyers were posted at Northern Kentucky intersections, billboards featuring Paige’s face were put in place and Paige’s family started gathering for vigils.

“It’s hard to even get up and go on with your day ‘cause we don’t know where she is, and it’s a feeling I can’t explain,” Donna said in 2010. “It’s just the worst feeling in the world.”

Remembering Paige with candles, balloons and comforting hugs became a yearly tradition for her loved ones.

In 2011, Paige was legally declared dead, giving her mother a chance to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Jacob Bumpass. Bumpass is the person police believe last saw Paige alive.

When that did not bring Paige’s family answers, they say they continued fighting, pleading with Bumpass to tell them the truth. They never gave up on the idea that one day, Paige would return home.

“I need answers. I want to know where my baby sister’s at,” Paige’s sister Brittany Haywood said in 2011. “I want to bring her home, dead or alive, it doesn’t matter.”

According to police, Bumpass was questioned in the beginning, and he told them he had dropped Paige off in Covington the night she disappeared.

However, investigators said Bumpass’ phone showed he had actually been in Florence, where Paige lived, and then hours later, in Clermont County, near East Fork State Park.

Bumpass, who was locked up in the early stages of the investigation for a parole violation, reportedly stopped cooperating with detectives.

“He won’t say anything, which has been a year of him being quiet and silent, and a year of our family devastated,” Donna said in 2011.

In March 2020, Paige’s remains were found in Clermont County, not far from where police said Bumpass’ phone had pinged 10 years before.

Prosecutors then moved forward with charges against Bumpass - tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse.

Bumpass has been out of jail after making bail and is awaiting his criminal trial.

For Paige’s family, it is perhaps a step toward some sense of peace, but Donna believes there is nothing that could bring her complete healing.

“It’s not gonna be over for me until I take my last breath on this earth,” Donna said in September 2022.

Bumpass was supposed to go on trial in October, but now that it has been continued, his next hearing is January 27 in Clermont County.

Paige’s family members tell us they can’t bury her remains until the court case is complete. Once they get her back, they plan to have a funeral and celebration of life.

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