Overview of Jarrod Johnston
A mysterious disappearance leaves many with questions. What happened to Jarrod Johnston after he walked away from his grandmother's house?
Jarrod Duke Johnston was born August 21, 1988. Jarrod grew up splitting time between his dad, Steve Johnston, and his biological mom. Steve Johnston married Lisa, Jarrod's stepmother in 2003, and Jarrod became the oldest of 4 kids. Jarrod embraced his new siblings, and he was very protective of them. Jarrod was outgoing, quick-witted, and spontaneous as a teenager, and his family describes him as someone who always made friends easily. Jarrod loves music, poetry, and theatre, and he sought to be a musician growing up. He loved canning tomatoes from the garden with his mom and spending time with his family. Jarrod is described as having an infectious laugh, one that makes others join in; his sister Brittany depicts it as sounding similar to an old man coughing or catching his breath.
Jarrod lived in Franklin, Kentucky, with his parents and 3 siblings. Jarrod’s parents describe him as being highly advanced at an early age and that his kindergarten teacher caught him reading The Old Man and the Sea. While Jarrod was very intelligent, his parents discovered that he was struggling in high school; Jarrod had been abusing drugs. One day, when his parents were out of town, Jarrod threw a party and had to be taken to the hospital due to the number of pills he took. He spent the next 2 years in and out of rehab and actively worked to get better. To avoid succumbing to peer pressure, Jarrod was homeschooled his junior year. Jarrod excelled in this setting, and by the end of his junior year, summer of 2007, he felt content and happy in his sobriety and in his life with his family.
Wednesday, July 4, 2007 Jarrod traveled down to Mississippi from Kentucky with his mom, Lisa, his dad, Steve Johnston, and 2 of his siblings for the summer. They were driving towards Yazoo County, Mississippi where they had friends and extended family. Jarrod’s siblings, Matthew and Brittany Johnston, were to stay at Lisa’s mother’s house while Jarrod was supposed stay at his friend’s house. Jarrod told his family that he had made arrangements with a friend for the summer and that he was looking forward to spending time with his girlfriend.
Jarrod’s siblings, Matthew and Brittany Johnston, began July 7, 2007 enjoying the sun outside of their grandmother’s house like they had every day that summer. However, the kids were interrupted when they noticed a car approaching the house; Jarrod was in the passenger seat. Unfortunately, Jarrod’s plans of staying with a friend weren’t as solid as he initially claimed, and the friend’s parents asked Jarrod to leave after a couple of days. Having nowhere else to go, Jarrod asked the friend’s parents to take him to his grandmother’s house. However, Jarrod’s grandmother had not agreed to let Jarrod stay with her. While she loved her grandson, Jarrod’s grandmother had just gotten surgery, and she was worried Jarrod would steal her pain medication, which he had a history of doing. When Jarrod informed her that he had nowhere else to go, his grandmother told him that she would have to call his parents, Stephen and Lisa Johnston, to bring him back to Kentucky.
He was excited about spending the summer in Mississippi, and the thought of leaving so soon visibly upset Jarrod. Brittany Johnston watched as her brother Jarrod stormed out of their grandmother’s house and across the lawn. Brittany ran after Jarrod in an attempt to bring him back, but Jarrod assured her that he would be fine, and he continued walking. Jarrod was carrying a black duffel bag, a backpack, a walnut-colored guitar in a black carrying case, and $20 in cash. According to Jarrod’s family, this behavior wasn’t abnormal; Jarrod had a habit of taking off for a couple of days when he felt frustrated. Because of this pattern, and because Jarrod’s girlfriend lived in the area, Jarrod’s family was not too worried. Jarrod’s parents considered driving down to Mississippi to pick him up, but they figured they would give Jarrod the time and space to cool off while he stayed with his girlfriend for a couple of days.
When days pass without any contact from him, Jarrod’s parents, Steve and Lisa Johnston, begin to consider the thought that Jarrod may be holding a grudge against the family. Three weeks pass with no communication from Jarrod, but his family still thinks he may be cooling off. In August, Jarrod’s parents receive a letter stating that Jarrod’s grades and ACT score had earned him a full ride scholarship to any Kentucky state school, and they wanted to relay the good news to him. Jarrod didn’t have a cellphone, so his parents tried to reach out to him through his girlfriend, Kacie Parker, whom they believed he was staying with. Kacie, however, informed Steve and Lisa Johnston that she hadn’t seen Jarrod since January when he last visited, and that she wasn’t even aware that Jarrod was in town. This revelation, along with the knowledge that Jarrod had left his wallet and ID cards at Kacie’s last time he visited, caused immediate fear and panic in the Johnston’s minds. Jarrod’s father, Steve Johnston, had an 18 year old sister who went missing years after she went to a concert on the coast of Mississippi; they found her three months later through a composite sketch in the newspaper of a body found in the water. She had been murdered, and her body was weighed down and wrapped in burlap and chicken wire.
Steve Johnston did not want his son to fall victim to the same tragic conditions. He called the Yazoo police department to report Jarrod missing, but they informed him that the report must come from someone who lives in the area, and to ask the grandmother to come in to report it. While Lisa’s mother went in to make the report, Jarrod’s parents began contacting everyone he may have seen or talked to, but they had no luck. When Steve and Lisa contact the mother of the friend Jarrod had stayed with, she informs them that she saw Jarrod walking on Old Highway 16 in the predawn hours of July 8, around 15 hours after he walked away from his grandmother’s house. Unfortunately, she did not speak to Jarrod or find out where he was going.
Where the Case Stands Today.
In the months following Jarrod’s disappearance, scattered sightings were reported across Mississippi, but none could be substantiated. As more time passed, the family became more and more worried; Jarrod had been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder while in rehab, and he only had 3 months’ worth of medication with him when he left. Additionally, the drug Jarrod habitually used before rehab, CCC, or Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold, contains Dextromethorphan or DXM which taken in large doses can produce hallucinations as well as extremely vivid dreams. Jarrod’s mother was worried that he may be having difficulty distinguishing between dreams and reality and that he may have trouble remembering who he is.
In December 2007, 5 months after Jarrod was last seen, Jarrod’s cousin Jeffrey reported seeing Jarrod at a mall in Jackson, Mississippi. Sadly, Jeffrey didn’t know that his cousin Jarrod was missing, and he didn’t get a chance to speak with Jarrod. In March of 2008, 3 months after Lisa Johnston’s nephew, Jeffrey, saw Jarrod at the mall in Jackson, the family drove over 400 miles from Kentucky to Jackson, MS to ask around the mall. Jarrod’s sister Brittany interviewed a cashier who says Jarrod came in late December looking for an engagement ring, but his card declined. The saleswoman says that Jarrod promised to come back but that she never saw him again. Unfortunately, the mall security footage had already been recorded over. This blow came to the family just one month after receiving terrifying ransom notes through email. In early February, Steve Johnston received an email stating, “WE HAVE JARROD. WE PICKED HIM UP IN YAZOO CITY. WE'RE HOLDING HIM. IF YOU WANT YOUR SON ALIVE, YOU'LL DO WHAT WE SAY. SEND ME $50,000, OR WE'RE GONNA SEND YOU HIS BODY. DON'T INVOLVE ANYBODY ELSE, OR HE DIES."" Steve Johnston reported the cybercrime to the local FBI office who quickly figured out it was a hoax.
In July of 2010, 3 years after Jarrod’s disappearance, a woman in Atlanta called a detective in Yazoo to report that she and her brother had been caring for a man for nearly two years who matched Jarrod’s description. Because of the shape the man was found in, and because he had little memory, the woman and her brother suspected he may be missing. However, a fingerprint comparison confirmed that the boy was not Jarrod.
In March of 2012, Jarrod’s family learned that there was no paperwork on their missing son after setting up a meeting at the Sheriff's Office to discuss the case; the files were either misplaced, destroyed, or never done, and the new investigator in Yazoo had to start from scratch. A few months after their first meeting, the investigator informed the Johnston family of a possible new lead of a man in a coma in the Atlanta area, but the man was confirmed to not be Jarrod.
There has been no confirmed sighting of Jarrod Johnston since July 7, 2007. If you have any information regarding the disappearance of Jarrod Johnston, please contact the Yazoo County Sheriff’s Department at (662)-746-5611.
Case researched and written by Nadia Y.