It has been nearly two years since Covington teenager Paige Johnson disappeared, but even now signs with her picture on them still pop up in windows across town as some hold on to hope that she may still be found. On Thursday evening this week, however, what had seemed like a cold case reemerged with the urgency as when the case was new. The Kenton County Commonwealth's Attorney Office tells the story:
Late Thursday evening, Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders was contacted by a prosecutor from the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Ohio about information obtained by Ohio law enforcement resulting in a possible new lead in the investigation into the disappearance of 17 year old Paige Johnson of Florence. The phone call resulted in an early morning meeting between Sanders, Covington Police Detective Bryan Frodge, and representatives from the US Attorneys Office, Hamilton County Prosecutors Office, Norwood (OH) Police, and the US Secret Service. By lunchtime, three prosecutors, three detectives, and four Secret Service Agents were departing on a three hour drive to a farm just outside of Barbourville in Knox County, Kentucky, in hopes of finding Paige.
Upon arriving in Knox County, the contingent of local authorities were met by Knox County Commonwealth's Attorney Jackie Steele, Barbourville Police, Knox County Sheriff's Dept, and KY State Police. Investigators pinpointed the exact location provided in the new lead and found it was actually in a wooded area just off of KY229, near the farm. An evidence collection team of Troopers from KSP Post 10 in Harlan led the search as investigators looked for anything that might resemble a shallow grave. Law enforcement officers cleared a very large area of brush and overgrowth. After sifting through bucket after bucket of dirt turned up nothing, a backhoe was called in to slowly unearth the entire area. Before the search ended, shortly after midnight, investigators had dug 6 to 8 feet deep in an area about the size of an Olympic swimming pool with no luck in finding any sign of Paige.
Sanders called the search "frustrating in its' lack of fruition, but impressive in scope, cooperation, and effort." Sanders said the information received was obviously not accurate in its exact location but he would not rule out the possibility Paige Johnson's body is in Knox County. "Paige could still be close by but I assure you she's not where we were lead to believe," said Sanders. "About thirty prosecutors, police officers, sheriff's deputies, state troopers, and Secret Service agents, along with the Knox County Coroner and his brother, gave up their Friday nights to dig up that land without hesitation. We even had KSP troopers who lived nearby stop and pitch in on their own time," said Sanders.
Covington Police Chief Spike Jones said: "I want to sincerely thank every agency and their personnel who contributed to this effort. A great many resources were devoted to this search but they were not wasted. As we approach the two year anniversary of Paige's disappearance, it's important for the public and Paige's family to know we have not given up! Most importantly, the person or persons out there who know where Paige is need to realize we will not give up till we bring Paige home!" Sanders and Jones both emphasized that anyone with information about Paige's whereabouts would be much better off coming forward now to assist authorities, rather than waiting to be caught.
Paige Johnson went missing September 23, 2010. Anyone with information should call Covington Police at (859) 292-2222 or contact the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
***Note: The specific information received by Ohio law enforcement is part of an on-going, unrelated investigation that could be compromised by further comment. As such, no additional details on the nature and/or source of the information will be released.***