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'They came in and sat me down and they told me, ‘We found Paige' '

'I’ve been wanting to bring my baby home for so long,' mom says
Posted at 9:08 PM, Mar 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-26 10:21:31-04

COVINGTON, Ky. — For Donna Johnson, Wednesday started like almost every day for the last 10 years, tinged with heartache, despair and longing.

Then the doorbell rang.

“When I opened the door, I knew this is probably it,” Johnson said.

Law enforcement officials were there. They brought the news she had been waiting for.

“They came in and sat me down and they told me, ‘We found Paige,’” Johnson told WCPO 9 a few hours later. “It’s the words I’ve been waiting to hear for almost 10 years. I think I kind of went into shock. Maybe I still am.”

Johnson said she felt sadness and relief that someone had finally found her daughter’s remains in woods in Clermont County. She and her family had never given up all hope that Paige, a 17-year-old with a baby girl herself, would come home one day and throw her arms around them. But knowing that was never going to happen was better than never knowing.

“I’ve been wanting to bring my baby home for so long, and now I get to,” Johnson said through tears. “This is a day that I was worried that I would go to my grave without ever getting.”

Paige Johnson

Ever since Paige went missing in Covington in 2010, Johnson’s family has been searching for her and searching for answers. The Clermont County Sheriff’s Office provided some answers when they recovered Johnson’s remains near Williamsburg Township.

“I was happy to hear that,” Johnson said. “Overwhelming sadness with happiness at the same time, if that makes sense.

“Just mostly knowing that she’s not out there alone anymore.”

Johnson regrets that Paige never got to grow into an adult or see her baby grow up at all.

“She just turned 17. She was 5 foot 1, 100 pounds. Just a little girl,” Johnson said. “She was a good soul. She was a child. She was just full of nothing but goodness.

“Losing her ... there’s no words to describe it. I lost my baby.”

Paige’s sister, Brittany Haywood, called her “a breath of fresh air.”

“She was a great girl. She loved to dance and sing,” Haywood said.

Haywood said Paige’s daughter, Makenzie, reminds them of Paige.

“Makenzie, she’s great. She looks just like her mom,” Haywood said. “We love having her around because it’s like having Paige in the room. But it’s heartbreaking, too, because she doesn’t get to know how awesome her mom was.”

A passerby made the discovery off State Route 276 – just 2 miles from a spot in East Fork State Park where investigators originally searched for Paige's body.

Covington police are handling the investigation and say they do not have a possible cause of death yet.

Paige’s family has long believed they know who was involved in her disappearance. Police said a friend claimed he dropped her off near the corner of East 15th Street and Scott Boulevard in Covington after they both attended a party.

“It reassured me that I wasn’t wrong about what I’ve been thinking happened,” Johnson said.

They hope finding her remains brings them both answers and justice – and quickly.

“I hope with everything in me that we get justice,” Paige’s mother said. “They hurt her and they disposed of her and they never gave it a second thought. They’ve left so many people suffering for so many years and hopefully now it’s their time to suffer.”

“We can get this case really moving because it’s been at a standstill for 10 years,” Paige’s sister said.

“Justice will be served in this case one way or the other.”

RELATED: What we know about the case.

Anyone with any information about Johnson's disappearance should call Crime Stoppers at 513-352-3040. Tipsters can remain anonymous.