The Curious Death of Kendrick Johnson [Updated 10/31/13]

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“I did not know if the story was factually true or not, but it was emotionally true […].” ― Richard Wright, Black Boy

When Kendrick Johnson was found dead, headfirst in a rolled up gym mat at Lowndes High School in South Georgia, I thought it was highly suspicious that authorities refused to investigate Johnson’s death as a homicide. Lowndes County authorities said the 17 year old had been reaching for his sneaker in a rolled up gym mat when he got stuck in it and suffocated to death.

Now, 10 months after Johnson’s death his parents are still searching for justice. Following Johnson’s death the Georgia Bureau of Investigation found that he died of position asphyxia, leading the Lowndes County Sherriff Office to declare the case closed. Johnson’s parent’s persistence has seemed to pay off after the most recent disturbing details of this story have emerged.

A private autopsy of Kendrick was performed at the request of his parents, and the results were startling. The autopsy found that Kendrick died of “unexplained, apparent non-accidental blunt force trauma.” Equally as disturbing was the revelation that Kendrick’s skull and body was stuffed with newspaper prior to his burial.

Greg Brothello from CNN reported the following (http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/11/justice/georgia-kendrick-johnson-parents/):

On January 11, he was in the gymnasium of Lowndes County High in Valdosta. A few still images, taken from surveillance cameras, are perhaps the last of Kendrick Johnson alive. They show him walking across the bare floor with no one else in sight, though it’s quite possible that other, unreleased pictures would show Kendrick wasn’t alone.

The next pictures of the teenager are far more horrifying: His body, clad in jeans and layered orange and white T-shirts, is wedged in the wrestling mat. His face is bloated with pooled blood, some of which poured out of his body and soaked his dreadlocks and spilled onto the floor.

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“I don’t believe this was an accident,” said Harold Copus, an Atlanta private investigator who looked at the death scene imagery. “I think this young man met with foul play.”

And Dr. Bill Anderson, the private pathologist hired by Johnson’s family who conducted the second autopsy, found that Johnson had a blow to right side of his neck “consistent with inflicted injury.”

Yet a number of official reports paint a different picture.

A January 25 report by the Valdosta-Lowndes County Regional Crime Laboratory cited “no signs of blunt force trauma on Johnson’s face or body.”

And the original autopsy results released by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation May 2 identified “no significant injuries.”

Kendrick’s family describes him as a loving son and brother, a well-mannered gentleman who made everyone laugh. Kendrick’s family deserves to know the full truth of what happened that day, so that they may have closure and so that Kendrick Johnson may rest in peace.

[Updated 10/31/13] Today, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia announced he is reopening the investigation into the death of Kendrick Johnson. Federal prosecutor Michael Moore said he will conduct a “formal review” of Johnson’s death with the help of the FBI.  On Wednesday, a South Georgia judge ordered authorities to release all surveillance video that investigators reviewed in the death of Johnson. The video apparently shows Johnson entering the gymnasium on the day of his death. The video also shows a group playing basketball inside the gym at the time Johnson is seen entering (Stephanie Slifer).

Stephanie Slifer from CBS News reported the following:

Benjamin Crump, the lawyer representing Johnson’s family, told CBS News’ Crimesider on Wednesday that the case is a “real-life murder mystery.”

“It defies all logic, the rules of science and common sense that a 17-year-old athlete would climb into a wrestling mat and get stuck trying to get a tennis shoe and stop breathing. What’s more likely is that someone rolled him up in that mat,” said Crump, the high-profile attorney who represented Trayvon Martin’s family.

He said the fact that Johnson’s organs were determined to be missing just adds to the mystery. Crump said he has not received any explanation as to what happened to the teen’s organs.

“That’s a part of the murder mystery, too,” Crump said. “The fact that his organs are missing, his clothes that had DNA and blood evidence are missing, his fingernails are missing. All of this is missing and it just substantiates the belief that this was not an accident.”

As more details emerge I will continue to update this blog.

 

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