Former detective says they ‘were desperate’ in search for Paige Johnson

Posted at 7:21 AM, July 20, 2023 and last updated 10:14 AM, July 20, 2023

By: Valerie Lyons

BATAVIA, Ohio (Scripps News Cincinnati) — Phone records, sightings and “unusual” behavior. Those were three points brought into question Wednesday as Clermont County prosecutors continued to make their case before a jury.

Jacob Bumpass is charged with tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse in connection to the 2010 disappearance and death of 17-year-old Paige Johnson. Bumpass was the last person to  see the teen alive on September 22, 2010.

side by side photos of Jacob Bumpass and Paige Johnson.

Jacob Bumpass is charged in connection to Paige Johnson’s death. (Clermont Co. Sheriff/Covington Police Dept.)

On Wednesday, Johnson’s sister Brittany Haywood took the stand to continue cross-examination. Haywood said she and Johnson had a good relationship and would talk daily, calling and texting on the phone.

READ MORE: OH v. Jacob Bumpass Daily Trial Updates

Prosecutors asked Haywood about her and Johnson’s drug use. She told them she had a pain pill addiction at the time but that Johnson would occasionally drink and smoke marijuana in social settings.

Haywood said she knew Bumpass because they attended the same high school and ran in the same social circles.

She said she never hung out with him one-on-one but Johnson would.

Haywood had been living with her father’s child in 2010 but in September she moved back into her mother’s apartment, where Johnson also lived.

She said she hung out with Johnson during the day on Sept. 22 before leaving to go to her boyfriend’s apartment to meet up with him and a mutual friend. She said Johnson reached out to her about coming over that night, but Johnson never showed up. She never heard back from her sister.

Haywood said the next day she got a call from Ronnie Rider, Johnson’s boyfriend at the time, who told her he was worried and didn’t know where Johnson was.

Haywood said she called her mom and then called Johnson’s friends but no one knew where she was. She said she, Rider and another friend filed a missing person report later that night.

“It wasn’t like her. We could always get in contact with her and nobody had seen her and every moment that went by it was just more and more concerning,” she said.

Haywood said Johnson didn’t have a phone at the time she went missing and would often use either her mom’s or grandmother’s. The night Johnson went missing she was using her grandmother’s. Haywood said she looked through the phone and saw Johnson had been texting Bumpass.

When she asked Bumpass where Johnson was, he told her he had dropped her off at the corner of 15th and Scott streets in Covington and hadn’t seen her since, she said.

Prosecutors asked Haywood if Bumpass ever helped in any searches for Johnson. She said he didn’t.

Johnson’s boyfriend, Ronnie Rider, took the stand after Haywood.

He said he and Johnson had been dating on and off for three and a half years at the time and described Johnson as happy-go-lucky, bright and a “princess.”

Rider said at the time of Johnson’s disappearance, they had a good relationship and that he loved her. He said he had just given her his grandmother’s ring and the two were engaged to be married.

He said he dropped medicine off to Paige at her mother’s apartment during the day on Sept. 22 and then went home. He said he spoke with Johnson on the phone later that night around 9 p.m. He had to go to bed early for work and he thought she was going to sign up for her GED the morning, he said.

Once off the phone, Rider said he didn’t check it again that night.

During his first break at work the next morning, Rider said he texted Johnson’s grandmother’s phone, which she had been using the night before, but she didn’t respond.

He said he called Johnson’s sister and friends trying to find out where she was. He went to her apartment and asked Johnson’s grandmother to show him her phone. He said that’s when he saw Johnson had been texting a number that matched Bumpass’ contact in his phone.

Rider said he called Bumpass and asked what happened, but Bumpass gave him the same answer he gave Haywood. He told him he picked Johnson up, they hung out for a bit and he dropped her off at the corner of 15th and Scott in Covington.

He said he and Bumpass even made a plan to meet up to look for Johnson later that day. When prosecutors asked how he felt about Bumpass dropping Johnson off in that area, Rider said he didn’t like it. He said Johnson was the type of person to get what she wanted and could be “manipulative” and she would have requested to be taken to wherever she was going, which Rider believed was where Haywood was, not a “scummy area.”

Rider said he and Haywood called Covington police and filed a missing persons report. He said he and Johnson shared passwords so he logged on to her Facebook account to see if he could learn anything about her whereabouts, but that effort turned up nothing.

Rider said he slipped into a deep depression and spiraled into drug use in the days after Johnson went missing. He said he blew through most of his money until he decided he needed to leave town and get a fresh start.

He said he agreed to an interview with police before he moved to Minnesota to stay with his cousin. He moved back to Northern Kentucky in March 2011. He stayed in contact with Johnson’s family since she disappeared and said for many years he attended her memorial vigils at Devou Park, he said.

Rider said he never saw Bumpass show up to any of them nor participate in any searches for Johnson.

The defense brought up Rider’s criminal history. He had been convicted of rape, tampering with evidence and escape in 2013 and is currently serving a 180-day sentence in Campbell County for a misdemeanor assault charge on a woman he was dating. He was released on furlough for the day to testify.

Defense Attorney Louis Sirkin appeared to be holding phone records when he brought Rider’s relationship with Johnson into question.

“Would you be surprised that she made a comment to someone that she was mad at you because she found out you were cheating on her?” Sirkin asked.

Rider responded he would be surprised.

Sirkin asked Johnson if Covington detectives asked him to not leave the city during the early stages of the investigation. Rider said they suggested he stay in town but didn’t demand it.

Sirkin also questioned Rider’s confessed drug use after Johnson’s disappearance.

“While Paige was being looked for, you were out spending your money and doing drugs?” Sirkin asked.

Rider told Sirkin he didn’t start using drugs until a few days after she went missing.

Bryan Frodge, a retired Covington police detective who now works in real estate, was the sixth to take the stand.

He led Johnson’s case for its first five years.

Former Covington detective Bryan Frodge choked back tears while on the stand Wednesday

Former Covington detective Ryan Frodge choked back tears while on the stand Wednesday. (Scripps News Cincinnati)

Frodge broke down in tears at one point, struggling to describe how heavy the weight of the decade-long search for Johnson was.

“It was the hardest thing I ever had to do,” he said. “We were desperate.”

Prosecutors had Bumpass’s detail phone records during the time of Johnson’s disappearance.

He read the last text interaction between Bumpass and Paige at 12:53 a.m. on Sept. 23 in which Bumpass told Paige he was outside her apartment.

Frodge told prosecutors Bumpass changed his phone number on Sept. 29, less than a week after she went missing. His original number had been active since 1999.

When prosecutors asked if Bumpass ever tried contacting Johnson at the number she texted him from the night of her disappearance, Frodge said he didn’t. When prosecutors asked if Bumpass had ever tried contacting Johnson’s mother, Donna after Johnson went missing, Frodge said he didn’t.

On Oct. 4, shortly after taking on the case from Zerhusen, Frodge said he and another detective showed up at Bumpass’s house to further question him.

“When we knocked on the front door, we found out Jacob was trying to sneak out the back,” Frodge said.

Defense attorney Louis Sirkin questioned Frodge about searches that were conducted near East Fork Lake.

Frodge had said those efforts never turned up anything, even though Johnson’s remains were found in 2020 within a mile of an area teams had searched.

Sirkin said there was a lot of media publicity surrounding East Fork Lake Park and asked Fordge if it was possible Johnson’s remains could have been placed there sometime later because of that.

“Anything is possible,” Fordge replied.

Testimony continues Thursday with the prosecutor’s final four witnesses, including the hiker who discovered Johnson’s remains and the pathologist who identified them.


This story was originally published by Scripps News Cincinnati, an E.W. Scripps Company.