By: Sean DeLancey
COVINGTON, Ky. (Scripps News Cincinnati) — Thirteen years after the disappearance of Paige Johnson, Jacob Bumpass will stand trial for abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.
Johnson’s remains were found in 2020 by a hiker along State Route 276 in Clermont County 10 years after she went missing following a party in Covington.
After three years of litigation outside of court, Bumpass’s trial began Monday with jury selection.
In an unusual circumstance, seven potential jurors failed to show up, lowering the potential pool of jurors from 43 to 36.
The selection process began at 9 a.m. and went into the afternoon before Judge Kevin Miles seated the jury of six men and six women at around 2:30 p.m.
Because the selection process took longer than anticipated, after seating the jury of 12, Judge Miles swore them to oath and then dismissed them for the day.
Brittany Haywood, Johnson’s sister, keeps a picture of herself and her sister in her living room.
“She was fun. Very humble, down to earth, spunky,” Haywood said.
She said the loss of her sister tore through her entire family.
Now in recovery, Haywood said she turned to substance abuse in the wake of Johnson’s disappearance and death.
“I just tried to stay as gone as possible because I didn’t want to deal with it,” she said.
Haywood said the loss has a much greater impact on her mom Donna Johnson.
“Every light in the house could be on, and you walk in and it was just dark,” she said. “Because, pictures everywhere, home videos constantly playing, and just sadness.”
Soon after Johnson’s body was found, a Clermont County Grand Jury indicted Bumpass, the last person seen with Paige, with abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.
“I’m just really nervous,” Haywood said. “This is a circumstantial case, but I think it’s a very strong circumstantial.”
Kenton County Prosecutor Rob Sanders said in 2020 after Bumpass’s indictment that they couldn’t bring murder charges against him because they didn’t have Johnson’s cause of death.
“Until somebody convinces me that this was not a homicide, I will always be a little disappointed that there will not be more justice available for the Johnson family,” Sanders said in 2020.
Bumpass has pleaded not guilty to his two charges.
Haywood said she and her mother will testify against him, but, no matter what the jury decides, she really wants one thing.
“If I was in control. I would say I don’t even care about jail time,” she said. “I just want to know what happened because there’s still a lack of closure.”
One final piece of closure Haywood said she’s been looking forward to regardless of the trial’s outcome is to set her sister to rest.
Johnson’s remains have been kept in evidence since they were recovered, and Haywood said she plans to finally bury her once they’re released.
Bumpass’ trial continues Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. with opening statements.