By: Valerie Lyons
BATAVIA, Ohio (Scripps News Cincinnati) — The last of the prosecution’s witnesses took the stand Thursday in the trial of Jacob Bumpass.
Bumpass, 34, is charged with tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse 13 years after the disappearance and death of 17-year-old Paige Johnson in September 2010. Johnson’s remains were found in 2020 by a hiker off of a road just two miles from a spot where investigators originally searched for her body.
Dr. Beth Murray, the forensic anthropologist who analyzed Johnson’s remains, said given the condition they were found in, the remains could have been there since 2010.
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“I can say with certainty we were talking about years and not months,” Murray said.
The defense argued that multiple searches around East Fork State Park led to nothing. Bumpass’s attorney, Louis Sirkin, asked several detectives throughout the trial if there was a possibility the remains simply were not there during the original searches.
But testimony from David Rader, director of EquuSearch Midwest, said the area where the remains were found never peaked law enforcement’s radar. Rader worked with police during their searches, noting that her remains were found off a small path that was easy to miss off S.R. 32.
“Leading up the entrance of East Fork Lake did you ever have the chance to search Mathis Road?” prosecutors asked Rader.
No,” he said.
“So that’s an area that remained unsearched until March of 2020?” prosecutors asked.
“That is correct,” Rader said.
Rader said they were searching the area law enforcement wanted, which was the front area leading into the park.
Hiker Jason Kendle, the man who found Johnson’s remains, described the path as a wooded area with a thick brush — exactly where he expected to find the deer antlers he was searching for.
Kendle told Sirkin he’d been in the area many times between 2010 and 2020, but it was his first time in that specific location.
Covington Det. Austin Ross, the last investigator on Johnson’s case, told the jury the cell tower Bumpass’s phone pinged off in 2010 was just over a mile away from East Fork State Park. AT&T only keeps records for seven years, but from 2014 to 2020, there were no other pings in that area from Bumpass’s phone.
During cross-examination, Murray told the jury that while the bones were consistent with 10-year-old remains, they could have also been there for only five years or even 20 years.
This story was originally published on July 20, 2023, by Scripps News Cincinnati, an E.W. Scripps Company.