Kendrick Johnson Death: Missing organs are reason to suspect foul play in Ga. teen's gym mat death, victim's parents say

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Normal Kendrick Johnson Death: Missing organs are reason to suspect foul play in Ga. teen's gym mat death, victim's parents say

Post by samgoodwin on Sat Oct 19, 2013 12:01 pm

Kendrick Johnson Death: Missing organs are reason to suspect foul play in Ga. teen's gym mat death, victim's parents say
CBS/AP) SAVANNAH, Ga. - The parents of a Georgia teenager whose body was found inside a rolled-up wrestling mat at school said Thursday the fact that their son was recently found to be buried without his internal organs is a new reason to suspect signs of foul play were covered by investigators.

The body of Kendrick Johnson, 17, was found Jan. 11 in South Georgia. Lowndes County sheriff's investigators concluded that he died in a freak accident, falling headfirst into an upright mat and becoming trapped. But Johnson's family believes he was killed and has been pressuring authorities into taking a second look at the case.

The teenager's family announced Thursday that the Florida lawyer who helped push for a criminal prosecution in the shooting of Trayvon Martin has joined efforts to reopen an investigation into Johnson's death. His parents also revealed that when Johnson's body was exhumed over the summer for a second autopsy, the private pathologist discovered his organs were missing and newspaper had been used to fill the body cavity.

"I feel outraged about them stuffing my son's body with newspaper," Jaquelyn Johnson said.

Benjamin Crump, the lawyer who helped focus national attention on the 2012 shooting death of Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, said the discovery raises questions about why Johnson's organs went missing and couldn't be examined in the follow-up autopsy the family requested.

"When you think about it logically, it seems to be some kind of conspiracy to conceal the truth about what happened to Kendrick and who did it to him," Crump said.

School officials found Johnson's body in the gym after his parents reported him missing the night before. He was stuck upside down in the middle of a wrestling mat that had been rolled up and propped upright behind bleachers.

Sheriff Chris Prine has said he suspected Johnson became trapped trying to retrieve a shoe that fell into the center of the large, rolled mat. A Georgia Bureau of Investigation medical examiner concluded that he died from positional asphyxia, his body stuck in a position in which he couldn't breathe.

But a judge agreed in May to exhume the body, and Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson hired Dr. William R. Anderson to provide a second opinion. The private pathologist presented a four-page report of his findings Aug. 15 saying he detected hemorrhaging on the right side of Johnson's neck. He concluded the teenager died from blunt force trauma near his carotid artery and that the fatal blow appeared to be non-accidental.

Johnson's family said Anderson also revealed that most of his internal organs were missing and the body cavity was filled with newspaper.

GBI spokeswoman Sherry Lang said Thursday that the agency's policy is to return all organs to bodies after autopsies. That's what happened in Johnson's case, she said.

"Those organs were in the body when we sent it back to the funeral home," said Lang, who added that the GBI stands by the conclusions of its autopsy that found no foul play involved.

But Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson said many of Johnson's organs were deemed too badly decomposed to be preserved and had to be disposed of before the body was sent to the funeral home. "It would've been during or immediately after the autopsy," he said.

Harrington Funeral Home in Valdosta, which handled Johnson's body, referred calls to attorney Roy Copeland. He said Johnson's organs were missing when the body arrived at Harrington. He also said standard embalming practice is to fill empty space in body cavities with material such as sawdust or cotton.

"Is newspaper necessarily more indicting that sawdust or cotton?" Copeland said.

Medical examiners commonly remove internal organs during forensic autopsies. After autopsies, those organs are typically sealed in a plastic bag and placed back in the body, said Vernie Fountain, who runs an embalming school in Springfield, Mo. When organs are missing, such as in cases involving organ donors, space inside the body cavity often is filled with an absorbent, preservative powder, Fountain said. Sometimes cotton is used with powder.

"I don't think I've ever talked to anyone who told me they've used old newspapers," Fountain said. "There may not be any law that prohibits it. I don't know. But it's just not something that's within what I would consider acceptable standards."

The Georgia secretary of state's office, which regulates funeral homes in the states, is investigating how Johnson's body was handled, spokesman Jared Thomas said.

Meanwhile, Johnson's parents are preparing to file a lawsuit asking a judge to order a coroner's inquest in their son's death, said Chevene King, an attorney working with the family. An inquest would present the evidence in Johnson's death in a public hearing, much like a trial. Johnson's parents hope the outcome would be to change the manner of death listed on his death certificate from accidental to homicide -- paving the way to reopen a criminal investigation.

"This can happen to any of our kids," said Kenneth Johnson, the teenager's father. "We just can't allow this to happen again and again and again."

CBS affiliate WCTV reports the family's lawyer is also calling on authorities to release surveillance video that they say could have captured what happened in the gym the day Johnson died.

Johnson's family asked the Justice Department to get involved, arguing that authorities failed to investigate Johnson's death thoroughly because he's black. But the Justice Department found insufficient evidence to support an investigation. U.S. Attorney Michael Moore in Macon has been monitoring the case but has yet to announce whether he'll take any further action. Moore did not immediately return a phone message Thursday.

Watson said he reviewed the second autopsy report on Johnson, but found it vague and lacking the specifics of the GBI's findings.

"I'm terribly sorry for the family," Watson said. "But I don't think raising all this Cain down here is going to bring closure to them."
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Breaking news in the Kendrick Johnson case
Surveillance video may shed light on the death of Georgia high school student Kendrick Johnson. His body was found in a rolled up gym mat. Authorities ruled his death an accident. But a second autopsy by the Johnson family showed he died from blunt force trauma. His body was stuffed with newspapers. Victor Blackwell has the latest developments.
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Normal Re: Kendrick Johnson Death: Missing organs are reason to suspect foul play in Ga. teen's gym mat death, victim's parents say

Post by NiteSpinR on Sat Oct 19, 2013 1:40 pm

I feel bad for this boy's family. Not only are they left with questions about how he died now they're being forced to face the fact that his body was miss handled after his death.

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Normal Re: Kendrick Johnson Death: Missing organs are reason to suspect foul play in Ga. teen's gym mat death, victim's parents say

Post by samgoodwin on Sat Oct 19, 2013 4:55 pm

agreed  It does seem like sort of an impossible "accident." And now that they know someone else was in the gym with him it's looking suspicious. That's all bad enough without finding out your son has his organs missing and is stuffed with newspaper. Ugh.
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Normal Local Officials Probe Claim Of Confession In Kendrick Johnson's Gym-Mat Death

Post by NiteSpinR on Tue Jul 01, 2014 10:05 pm

March 20, 2014

Atlanta (CNN) -- A Lowndes County, Georgia, assistant district attorney has ordered a communications company to hand over Internet records after investigators received an anonymous e-mail claiming an ex-schoolmate reportedly confessed to killing Kendrick Johnson.

CNN obtained the e-mail and the subpoena on Monday, in response to a state Open Records Act request submitted to the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office.

The anonymous e-mail tip is dated January 27. The sender of the e-mail does not suggest he or she personally witnessed a confession; instead, the sender claims to have been told information by somebody who purportedly was aware of a confession in the 2013 death by one of the people implicated in the e-mail.

Johnson's body was found in a rolled-up mat in the Lowndes High School gymnasium on January 11, 2013. Investigators with the sheriff's office ruled his death accidental, concluding that Johnson climbed into the center of the gym mat to reach for a shoe and got stuck.

According to an incident report provided to CNN by the sheriff's office, investigators interviewed two of four students identified by name in the anonymous e-mail on January 28.

Both students acknowledged they knew the 17-year-old Johnson but denied any involvement in his death.

The incident report does not indicate whether the investigators attempted to speak with the two other students identified in the e-mail.

CNN is not naming the students mentioned in the e-mail because none of them has been named a suspect in the death of Johnson.

Lowndes County sheriff's investigators concluded Johnson got stuck while reaching for a shoe at the center of the mat and that his death was accidental. The state's medical examiner agreed, citing "positional asphyxia" as the cause of death.

Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson believe their son was beaten to death and officials are "covering up a murder." An independent pathologist, hired by Johnson's parents, concluded Johnson's death was the result of a homicide after finding evidence of "unexplained apparent non-accidental blunt force trauma" to Johnson's neck.

"If anybody has any information of a different opinion that they can provide to us, we're certainly open to looking at that. We're not closed-minded on this," Lt. Stryde Jones, supervisor of the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office's Investigative Division told CNN in May.

The sheriff's office has received many public comments regarding Johnson's death since it closed its case on May 2. The grand jury subpoena is the first document provided to CNN that suggests the department has acted on any of those public comments.

"Although our case has been closed, if evidence comes forward, specifically testimony, then we're open to hearing that and certainly we'll act accordingly," Lt. Jones said.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Bradfield Shealy issued the subpoena to Mediacom Communications Corporation on January 28. The New York-based cable, phone and Internet provider was ordered to provide the Lowndes County grand jury with subscriber information associated with the e-mail sent through the Lowndes County sheriff's office's website or submit the documents to the district attorney's office or Lt. Jones before February 26.

According to a Lowndes County Sheriff's Office incident report, the subpoena was faxed to Mediacom on February 7. The company intends to comply with the order. However, a Mediacom employee told CNN by phone Wednesday that Mediacom has not received the subpoena.

Last week, students from Lowndes High School and nearby Valdosta High School were among those who appeared before a federal grand jury in Macon, as part of the Department of Justice's investigation into Johnson's death. The U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, Michael Moore, launched the federal probe October 31.

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Normal Parents Of Kendrick Johnson File Lawsuit Against School Board Claiming It Failed To Protect Their Son From Bullying, Harassment And Discrimination

Post by NiteSpinR on Tue Jul 01, 2014 10:10 pm

May 14, 2014

The parents of Kendrick Johnson, the Georgia teen found dead inside a rolled-up wrestling mat in his high school gymnasium last January, have filed a lawsuit against a South Georgia school board claiming it failed to protect their son from bullying, harassment and discrimination, which they argue led to his death.

The lawsuit provides the first glimpse into what Johnson's parents believe led to their son's mysterious death. They say in the lawsuit that he was assaulted and that the injuries he sustained were "foreseeable" since the school was aware of a previous confrontation between Kendrick and another student a year prior. The Johnsons contend the school board failed to "properly investigate" the initial altercation or handle it in an "appropriate manner."

The suit was filed Tuesday in Lowndes County Superior Court by Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, on behalf of their son's estate, against the Lowndes County Board of Education, as well as Superintendent Wes Taylor, Lowndes High School Principal Jay Floyd and Fred Wetherington, chairman of the school board.

The 17-year-old Johnson was found dead in the gymnasium of Lowndes High School in Valdosta, where he was a student, on January 11, 2013. Authorities initially called his death a freak accident, saying he fell head-first into an upright mat and became trapped. An autopsy conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) concurred.

The case was closed, but Johnson's family insisted there was more to the story and had their son's body exhumed for a second autopsy last summer. It was then that a private pathologist determined the teen died of blunt force trauma to the neck and that his organs were missing and his body had been stuffed with newspaper.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday claims that the school did not properly investigate an incident which took place approximately a year before Kendrick's death and therefore failed to "properly supervise and protect [Kendrick] from further mistreatment and harassment, including, but not limited to, other assaults and fatal injuries."

The lawsuit also alleges the school board violated Title IX by discriminating against Kendrick on the basis of race.

According to the lawsuit, Kendrick was assaulted approximately a year before his death by another student, who remains unnamed, while on a bus trip to an athletic event. The student - who is said to be Caucasian - is alleged to have had a history of "provoking and attacking" Johnson while on school premises.

Jacquelyn Johnson, Kendrick's mother, notified school administrators that her son had been "victimized by the [unnamed student] without just cause and while in the presence of the coaching staff and employees of the Lowndes County School System," the lawsuit says.

The suit goes on to allege that the school bus dispute was not properly investigated or handled in an appropriate manner and that following the dispute, Kendrick Johnson was threatened by the unnamed student's older brother who allegedly said, "it ain't over."

Johnson's parents contend that the school's failure to properly investigate the alleged assault and mistreatment of Kendrick Johnson "caused, encouraged or precipitated the ultimate assault" of their son.

This isn't the first time a school bus fight has been referenced in the Johnson case.

In February, a woman named Karen Bell told the Valdosta Times that her sons, ages 16 and 18, were being harassed and falsely accused on the Internet of murdering Kendrick. She said the allegations stemmed from a YouTube video that claimed a classmate of Kendrick's, whose father works for the FBI, had gotten into a confrontation with Kendrick prior to his death.

Bell, whose husband is an FBI agent, reportedly told the paper that the confrontation likely referred to a disagreement between Kendrick and Bell's youngest son that occurred on a school bus during a varsity football team trip to an away game in 2011.

Bell downplayed the fight, telling the paper her son later laughed about the situation. She said both her sons were devastated when they learned of Kendrick's death.

Bell reportedly told the paper that police attempted to question her sons in the days after Kendrick's death, but she said a family lawyer advised them not to talk because evidence showed they were not involved.

Lowndes Sheriff Lt. Stryde Jones reportedly told the paper that the Bell brothers were never considered suspects and that foul play was not suspected in Kendrick's death. He said authorities only wanted to speak to the brothers because of the rumors.

When U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia Michael Moore reopened the investigation into Kendrick's death in October 2013, and the FBI joined the investigation, the Bell brothers were sought for questioning again, Karen Bell reportedly told the paper. She said she and her husband spoke to the FBI on her son's behalf.

It is unclear whether her sons have since been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury investigating the case.

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