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The remains of a teenage Kentucky mother — who vanished almost a decade ago — were discovered in Ohio over the weekend, investigators said.
A burnt human skull found in Clermont County on Sunday was positively identified as Paige Johnson, who disappeared from northern Kentucky in 2010, according to the Covington Police Department.
An Ohio couple, who were deer hunting in a stretch of woods near a highway over the weekend, made the morbid discovery, according to a 911 call released to local media on Wednesday.
Investigators from a number of law enforcement agencies combed the area and found additional remains, which were positively identified as belonging to Johnson on March 24.
The missing teen’s family was notified of the discovery on Wednesday.
“We are all shocked. We are incredibly sad,” Paige’s cousin, Alicen Franks said, WXIX-TV reported. “Unfortunately, we always feared this would be the outcome.”
No suspects have been announced in the case nor has a cause of death been determined, NBC News reported. It’s also unclear how Johnson’s body managed to cross state lines. An investigation is also underway to determine whether she was killed in Ohio, or just dumped there.
"We want to be hopeful that this will lead to more information," Covington Police Chief Robert Nader told reporters this week. “We’ve been hopeful for 10 years that something would turn up so this is a first step. This is something we could move off of.”
Authorities described the investigation as open and ongoing.
"We still have work to do," Nader added, NBC affiliate WLWT reported.
“We would ask that during this difficult time the family’s privacy be respected,” Lt. Col. Brian R. Valenti said in a media release on March 25.
The teenage mom was last seen on Sept. 23, 2010, after attending a party with friends, according to NBC News. She vanished less than a month after her 17th birthday, Cincinnati.com reported.
“I’ve been wanting to bring my baby home for so long," Donna Johnson, the woman’s mother, told WLWT. "This is a day I was worried I would go to my grave without ever getting this day."
She described the break in her daughter’s case as bittersweet.
"[It’s] overwhelming happiness with sadness at the same time," Donna Johnson added.
Lingering questions had previously haunted the family for almost a decade in the years since the Kentucky teen’s death.
“We kind of know that she probably died that night,” Brittany Haywood, 28, told Cincinnati.com last year, prior to the discovery of the teen mom’s remains. “But, still."
Johnson’s family still celebrates her birthday, Haywood added.
“I feel like it just gets sadder every year,” she said.
Johnson’s family since raised her daughter, who is approaching adolescence. Haywood, who filed her sister’s missing person report, remembered Johnson as a bubbly teen.
“She was just sweet,” her older sibling said.
Anybody with information related to Johnson’s disappearance is urged to contact Cincinnati Crime Stoppers at 513-352-3040 or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.
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