KANKAKEE — A search for clues in the disappearance and death of Jannette Johnson remains an emotional journey for her daughter Joretha Hampton 30 years later.

“It was heavy,” Hampton recalled of Sunday’s search in Pembroke Township, where previously found remains were ID’d recently as her mother. “One of our questions was answered — where it happened. We still need to learn the who, what, when and why.”

A 29-year-old Kankakee resident at the time, Johnson was reported missing on Aug. 3, 1985, by her family. Hampton was 11.

Last month, police said remains of a woman previously found in eastern Kankakee County were those of Johnson. The ID was made in November 2020 using DNA from family members.

The case is now a homicide investigation, according to police.

Sunday’s search was led by Kankakee Police Sgt. Logan Andersen with assistance from the Missing Person Awareness Network. Gia Wright is the founder of the organization.

“The search was successful in that it brought several volunteers out which were able to share different perspectives and new ideas on the case,” Andersen said. “It is always a reassuring sign of humanity when volunteers, who did not know Jannette Johnson, come out to participate in the hopes of finding evidence which can give the family closure.”

Members of Johnson’s family and 10 volunteers searched the area, Wright said. Disaster Dogs, a nonprofit organization, was part of the search effort as well.

“We had a good search, Wright said.

Hampton added, “The support was marvelous. It helped me deal with my emotions. It makes me sick knowing someone took her out here and murdered her. The person who did this has no soul.”

With God’s grace, Hampton said, the family is ready for the next step.

“At the end of the day, it is about our faith in God,” Hampton said. “He gives us strength there will be justice. There will be an arrest and the family will get closure.”

Jeff Bonty is a reporter for The Daily Journal. He can be reached at jbonty@daily-journal.com and 815-937-3366.


Jeff Bonty has worked for The Daily Journal since September 1986, starting in the sports department before moving to news reporting in 2002. He's a native of Indiana and graduate of Purdue University. His email is jbonty@daily-journal.com.