By BETH HEMPHILL
BATAVIA, Ohio (Court TV/Scripps News Cincinnati) — A judge sentenced Jacob Bumpass to the maximum penalty of four years in prison for his role in the disappearance of Paige Johnson.
On June 24, 2023, a jury found the 35-year-old Ohio man guilty of abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence – charges that defense attorney Lou Sirkin asked to be merged at sentencing, which was later overruled by the Judge Kevin Miles.
Prosecutors argued Bumpass was the last person to see 17-year-old Johnson alive, when she went missing in September 2010 after attending a party.
Johnson’s remains were discovered by a hiker ten years later. Assistant Prosecutor Zachary Zipperer said in his opening statement that only Johnson’s skull – which was missing the jaw – was found alongside two other bones.
Bumpass was not charged with murder in Johnson’s death. That’s because prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to file homicide charges, in part because coroners were unable to determine a cause of death. Prosecutors pointed to cellphone records to tie Bumpass to the scene where Johnson’s remains were discovered.
Attorneys for Bumpass maintained their client’s original story, doubling down on the claim that Bumpass dropped Johnson off the night she went missing.
At the sentencing, Prosecutor Zach Zipperper spoke first on behalf of the victim’s family. He said the ultimate goal of this trial was to learn what happened to Paige. “Unfortunately, we may never know and that rests entirely in the hands of Jacob Bumpass.”
The State asked the judge for the maximum sentence of four years.
Paige’s family members approached the podium one by one to deliver their heartbreaking victim impact statements about how their loved one was taken and their lives were forever changed for the worst.
Bumpass was credited 48 days for time-served, however Judge Miles made it very clear that maximum sentence was based on the fullest extent of the law and nothing else.
“If I had a magic wand…I see the pain in the family’s eyes throughout the trial. We’re all human beings involved in the system…I just hope this can bring some peace to the Johnson family.”
DAILY TRIAL UPDATES
- Jacob Bumpass is sentenced to 4 years in prison with 48 days credit for time served.
DAY 5 – 7/24/23
- A jury finds Jacob Bumpass guilty of all charges:
- Count 1: Tampering with Evidence GUILTY
- Count 2: Abuse of a Corpse GUILTY
- Sentencing scheduled for September 7
DAY 4 – 7/21/23
- The jury hears closing arguments
- WATCH: Teen Mystery Death Trial: State’s Rebuttal
- The jury deliberated for 8 hours before retiring for the weekend. They will return to resume deliberations on Monday.
DAY 3 – 7/20/23
- State rested. Judge informed defendant of right to testify.
- Most of the day’s testimony focused on discovery of remains in a wooded area of Clermont County, Ohio, about 30 minutes west of where the defendant and victim lived in KY.
- Paige Johnson’s dental records were used to identify a skull and jawbone as hers. A human rib was found but not positively matched to her. Lots of unidentified teeth also found.
- Retired FBI agent Kevin Horan testified as an expert in call data analysis and undermined the defendant’s claims:
- Cell tower data suggests Bumpass never dropped off Paige Johnson in the area where he claims he last saw her alive
- Instead, it places him at his house until it shows him traveling west from to Clermont County, Ohio, where it ultimately places him near a tower close to where Paige’s body was found.
- Lifelong Williamsburg Township resident Jason Kendle found the skull that was later identified as Paige’s on 3/22/20 while searching for deer antlers to make crafts from.
- The defense homed in on Kendle’s testimony that he had never come across the skull before in all his time combing the area, but he had never been in that precise location before.
- EquuSearch Midwest Director David Rader testified that they searched as far as the entrance to East Fork Park based on a ping off the defendant’s phone on a tower within two miles of the park, but never went further because they had no intel or guidance from law enforcement to do so.
- READ MORE: Detective: Jacob Bumpass’ phone pinged where remains were found
DAY 2 – 7/19/23
- Law enforcement officers testified about the search for Paige and how Bumpass emerged early as a suspect.
- Retired Sgt. Bryan Frodge read texts between the defendant and victim from the night she’s believed to have been killed about their plans to meet up.
- Frodge became emotional describing how he considered tips from psychics in his efforts to find Paige.
- Frodge testified that officers used cell tower data to place Bumpass near East Fork Lake campground in Batavia, Ohio, between 3:30 and 4 a.m. on Sept. 23, 2010, raising suspicions about why he was there.
- Tawney Sanford, who was friends with Bumpass in 2010, testified that the day after Paige disappeared, Bumpass expressed concern that it would “look bad” for him if Paige didn’t turn up because he was the last person seen with her.
- Sanford was at Bumpass’ home when Paige’s family came by looking for information about her. Sanford thought Bumpass’ behavior was unusual when he refused to speak to them.
- Paige Johnson’s boyfriend, Ronnie Rider, testified that he last spoke on the phone with her the night of Sept. 22, 2010. She told him that she was staying home for the night because she wasn’t feeling well.
- Rider testified that he and Paige were engaged, trying to get clean and save money so they could move in together. He testified that he believed Paige may still have been doing drugs.
- READ MORE:
DAY 1 – 7/18/23
- The jury hears opening statements
- Donna Johnson, mother of Paige Johnson, takes the stand
- READ MORE: