The mystery surrounding this teen’s death has so many twists and turns that there may never be a satisfactory conclusion.
Kendrick Johnson, 17, was discovered dead in Valdosta, Georgia, on January 11, 2013. His body was discovered inside a rolled up mat that was standing vertically in the Lowndes High School gymnasium. Certainly, it was a strange situation. One on which the authorities and Johnson’s family couldn’t agree. Was the death of this young man a freak accident or a cold-blooded murder?
An investigation was launched as soon as Johnson’s body was discovered. His body was cradled on the wrestling mat, his head pointing downward and his feet pointing up at the ceiling. These mats were nearly six feet tall and three feet wide, making them potentially dangerous in the wrong circumstances. After climbing to the top of the cluster mats, Johnson’s classmates found him dead.
According to an autopsy conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Johnson suffocated as a result of being in a position where they couldn’t breathe, whether because their nose or mouth were blocked, their chest couldn’t expand, or for other reasons. As a result, Johnson’s death was ruled accidental by Lowndes County investigators. The authorities proposed that Johnson was looking for a shoe on the day of his death when he fell into the mat and died from being unable to get out.
Several students at the high school corroborated this theory, telling the police that it was common practice for students to keep their shoes behind and under the rolled up mats. One student claimed that he and Johnson shared a pair of Adidas and that Johnson would always toss the shoes into the hole in the middle of the mat at the end of gym class. Johnson was discovered without shoes on his feet, lending credence to the story.
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Johnson’s family, on the other hand, was not so quick to accept this theory. The family took matters into their own hands after being dissatisfied with the official investigation and hired William R. Anderson of Forensic Dimensions to conduct an independent autopsy later that year in June. Anderson concluded that Johnson had suffered blunt force trauma to the right side of his neck and soft tissues, which contradicted the police findings. He decided that this was enough proof to show that Johnson’s death wasn’t an accident.
Following the private pathologist’s report, Johnson’s family publicly stated their belief that Kendrick had been murdered. On October 31, 2013, U.S. Attorney Michael J. Moore announced that his office would launch a formal investigation into Johnson’s suspicious death.
A legal action was filed by Johnson’s family to open a coroner’s inquest. The decision in that case was postponed pending the review by the US Attorney. In response, the Johnson family petitioned Georgia Governor Nathan Deal to order an immediate investigation. After a rally put on by the family, the NAACP, and other civil rights groups, Deal released a statement saying that the investigation would be put on hold until the US Attorney filed a report.
In November of 2013, 290 hours of surveillance footage from 35 cameras aimed at the high school gym area was released. Following a court order, the tapes were released to CNN, and with the help of a forensic analyst, it was discovered that footage from two different cameras covering a one-hour and five-minute period was missing. Two more cameras were discovered with two hours and ten minutes of footage missing. This lapse was allegedly caused by out-of-synch camera systems and motion-activated functions that were not triggered. Johnson’s body was discovered in an area where all of the surveillance cameras were out of range.
Attorneys for the Johnson family refused to believe the camera footage was edited as part of a cover-up, claiming that the gaps in surveillance were unintentional coincidences. An examination of the camera systems presented by the Valdosta Daily Times, however, casts doubt on this theory.
His family has filed several lawsuits since Kendrick Johnson’s death. The Lowndes County Board of Education, its superintendent, and the high school principal were all named in one wrongful death lawsuit. Even though the lawsuit didn’t name a suspect in Johnson’s alleged murder, it did say that the alleged attack might have been caused by racism.
According to the lawsuit, Johnson’s constitutional right to equal protection under the law was allegedly violated by the defendants in the case. It also claimed that the defendants had disregarded Johnson’s previous reports that he had been harassed and assaulted by a white student on numerous occasions, including an attack on a bus the previous year.
The lawsuit went on to say that another student had routinely attacked and provoked Johnson on school grounds, even while the coaching staff and employees were present. The suit also said that school officials were to blame because they didn’t keep an eye on what students were doing all over campus.
A lawsuit was filed against Ebony magazine in August of 2014, despite the fact that it was not filed by the Johnson family, following the publication of a series of articles naming two students as potential suspects in Kendrick Johnson’s death. While the two boys were given pseudonyms in the magazine, their descriptions were completely accurate, including the fact that they were the sons of an FBI agent.
An anonymous email to the sheriff’s office was used by the magazine as a source. The accused’s family claimed in the lawsuit that their sons were not only innocent but also that they had been harassed since the articles were published.
In January 2015, Johnson’s family filed a civil lawsuit seeking $100 million from 38 people in an alleged conspiracy to cover up Kendrick Johnson’s alleged homicide. Three of Johnson’s classmates are named in the lawsuit, as are local, state, and federal officials such as the Lowndes County school superintendent, the Valdosta-Lowndes crime lab, Valdosta’s police chief, several sheriff’s deputies, the city of Valdosta itself, the state medical examiner, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and one FBI agent.
According to the lawsuit, the FBI agent ordered his two sons and another classmate to attack Johnson, killing him, and that the respondents conspired to hide the truth. Such allegations, according to Lowndes County Attorney Jim Elliot, are “unfounded” and “baseless.” Because of how close they were to the accused, all of the local Superior Court judges had to step down, so the case could not be filed or heard in Lowndes County.
In November of 2015, the Department of Justice intervened in this civil case, requesting a stay of proceedings. According to the US Attorney, allowing evidence discovery in the civil suit, according to the US Attorney, would jeopardize the federal investigation, which had been expanded to look into possible obstruction and grand jury witness tampering. The request was turned down. Johnson’s parents decided to drop their wrongful death lawsuit, intending to re-file after the federal investigation was completed. They were sued for attorney fees as well as defamation damages as a result of this.
In June of 2016, nearly a year after Kendrick Johnson’s death, the Justice Department announced that no criminal charges would be filed. They said that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any federal crime could be charged.
In June of 2018, Johnson requested that Kendrick’s body be exhumed a second time, and the city agreed. On March 10th, 2021, the case was reopened formally. Sheriff Ashley Paulk of Lowndes County has stated that he will not admit that the investigation or its conclusion contained any errors. He states that he does not believe in the homicide theory and that the two brothers previously accused by the Johnson family are not suspects in any way.
However, as you can see in the CNN video below, the case has some peculiarities. Authorities never looked closely at evidence such as discarded shoes, a sweater, or unusual blood splatter. Is it possible that they were the key all along? In addition, the family was sold an audio recording of an alleged confession to Kendrick Johnson’s murder, which was later turned over to authorities.
Source : Up line | Wikipedia