COVINGTON, Ky. — After living in sorrow for 10 years, Paige Johnson's mother said she "filled up with so much joy" Tuesday when she learned that that the main suspect in her daughter's 2010 disappearance had been indicted and arrested.
"This day is the day I have been waiting for," Donna Johnson said. "I’m so thankful to God that he got the cuffs put on him.
"I've known from the very first day that he knew where she was and he wouldn't cooperate with us. He put us through so much pain."
Jacob Bumpass, described by a judge as the last person seen with the 17-year-old from Covington a decade ago, will face charges of tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse in Clermont County, officials announced Tuesday. Johnson's remains were found buried there last March.
At a news conference, prosecutors from Kentucky and Ohio expressed regret that they didn't have enough evidence to file homicide charges, but they won't be able to do that unless they can determine the cause of death, said Kenton County Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders.
"We don't know if she was shot or stabbed or died of a drug overdose," Sanders said. "So we're going to go with the charges we know Clermont County prosecutors can convict on."
Bumpass faces up to four years in prison on those charges, Sanders said. He added that the investigation would continue on both sides of the river in hopes of finding additional evidence.
On March 25, authorities confirmed that remains found in a wooded area off State Route 276 in Williamsburg Township belonged to Johnson.
Dental records helped identify Johnson and DNA evidence allowed prosecutors to file Tuesday's charges, Sanders said. After 10 years, the only skeletal remains were her skull and a few small bones, Sanders said - not enough to determine what killed her.
Sanders called Bumpass "the main suspect" from the beginning because his story to Covington investigators didn't wash.
"We always suspected that Mr. Bumpass was at least aware of what happened to Paige if not responsible for her death," Sanders said. "We always knew he was not being truthful with the Covington police department the day after she went missing."
That was the only time Bumpass spoke with police. He said he had dropped off Johnson on a Covington street corner after a party. But his cell phone had pinged at a tower near East Fork Lake in Clermont County.
Johnson's remains were found about 1 1/2 miles away from that tower, Sanders said.
Johnson left a baby daughter.
Sanders said he would have regretted it forever if no charges had ever been filed in the Johnson case. Sanders thanked Clermont County investigators and assistant prosecutor Scott O'Reilly for their work and cooperation. O'Reilly and his team will prosecute Bumpass.
Sanders also expressed sympathy for Johnson's family.
"Those are relatively minor charges compared to the pain that Paige's family went through," Sanders said.
Donna Johnson, Paige's mother, spoke through tears at the end of the news conference.
“I would love to get more charges, but today I’m happy with what we have because I didn’t know if we would get this far," she said. "Now everyone knows what I’ve known all along.
“I’ve been waiting for this day for almost 10 years. It's a very happy day. I want to thank all of these people (police and prosecutors) here with all my heart," she said.
"I was so afraid that I would never find her, that I would die without knowing where she was.”
Sanders said Colerain police arrested Bumpass without incident. A Clermont County judge on Wednesday issued Bumpass a $50,000 bond.