Remember that shady case in Georgia where a dead teen was found in a rolled up wrestling mat? Well the family sought a second autopsy and now want the case reopened.
Via Fox News reports:
The parents of a south Georgia teen found dead inside a rolled-up wrestling mat in a high school gym want federal authorities to reopen a case that had been declared an accident, the family’s attorney said Wednesday.
Sheriff’s investigators had decided after months of investigation that 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson died in a freak accident after he was found stuck upside down Jan. 11 in the rolled-up mat, which was propped upright behind bleachers at his Valdosta high school.
Family attorney Chevene King said Wednesday that a new autopsy by a private pathologist has concluded the boy died from an apparently non-accidental blow to the neck. Johnson’s parents had reported the teen missing when he didn’t return from school Jan. 10.
Sheriff Chris Prine in Lowndes County has previously said he suspected Johnson became trapped while trying to retrieve a shoe that fell into the center of the large rolled mat. A Georgia Bureau of Investigation medical examiner concluded the youth died from positional asphyxia, his body stuck in a position in which he couldn’t breathe.
But the teen’s parents, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, hired Dr. William R. Anderson to provide a second opinion after a judge agreed in May to exhume the body. The pathologist performed his own autopsy in June and presented a four-page report of his findings Aug. 15.
Anderson’s report said he detected hemorrhaging on the right side of Johnson’s neck. The pathologist concluded the teenager had died from blunt force trauma near his carotid artery and that the fatal blow appeared to be “non-accidental.”
King said the findings appear consistent with a possible assault.
Anastasia Roe, the teen’s aunt, said information that the family received from the school and the sheriff’s office about how the teen was found was inconsistent, and that led to some in the community to ask questions.
“First we heard he was on the floor near the mat, then we hear he was wrapped in the mat,” she said. “It’s suspicious.”
You may recall that part of the reason for people’s suspicion was that Kendrick’s face looked badly beaten. You can see the photo HERE.
The family is moving forward with next steps to get the case reopened:
The parents’ attorney also said copies of the autopsy’s findings had been sent to local authorities and to the U.S. attorney for Georgia’s middle district and the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.
The Justice Department said in an emailed statement Wednesday it had reviewed the file of the state investigation of Johnson’s death and “we do not see sufficient indication of a civil rights violation to authorize a civil rights investigation.”
However, the Justice Department said it was working with U.S. Attorney Michael Moore in Macon and “his office is continuing to monitor and evaluate this matter including the second autopsy report.”
The sheriff and his detectives spent nearly four months investigating Johnson’s death before closing the case in early May. They said school security camera footage showed Johnson walk into the gym by himself at 1:09 p.m. on Jan. 10, the day before his body was found. There was a gym class afterward and basketball practice in the gym that evening. Nobody found Johnson’s body until the next morning.
The sheriff told The Valdosta Daily Times on May 3 that students who didn’t have lockers kept personal belongings such as gym shoes on top of rolled-up wrestling mats left propped up behind the gym bleachers. Investigators found some of Johnson’s books and one tennis shoe near the body and believe they tumbled from atop the mat when a gym coach frantically pulled it over trying to free Johnson after students spotted his feet.
“We did everything we knew to do, and this is a tragic accident,” Prine told the newspaper in May. “But that’s all it was — an accident.”
However, Prine also acknowledged in the same interview he waited to call the county coroner immediately, as required by Georgia law, because he feared the death would be leaked to the news media. And King said paramedics who saw body noted in a report that they spotted bruising along the right side of his neck, a detail he says authorities never explained.
What kind of sheriff waits to call the coroner? That definitely isn’t helping anything. Do you think Kendrick’s death was an accident? After all he was spotted on camera entering the gym alone. Could the footage have been doctored?