I’ve been waiting for someone affiliated with law enforcement to say Kendrick Johnson’s death was suspicious.
It’s about time.
Johnson, 17, was found dead in a rolled-up gym mat on January 11 at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia. His face was bloated with filled with blood.
State medical examiners said Johnson suffocated but offered no explanation for how Johnson ended up smothered and bloody in a wrestling mat.
There were no details, no witnesses, no clues. Police say the case is closed. It’s been ruled an accidental death.
But now, a 15-minute video and nearly 700 photos taken by sheriff’s investigators in Lowndes County that were obtained by CNN, may tell a different story of how Johnson died.
“I don’t believe this was an accident. I think this young man met with foul play,” Harold Copus, a former FBI agent now an Atlanta private investigator, told CNN.
It’s unconscionable that after nine months police closed the case during a questionable investigation. At best, it’s sloppy investigative work. At worse, could it be a cover-up?
CNN reported that a pair of orange-and-black gym shoes found a few yards from Johnson’s body had a substance that looked like blood on them, but investigators told CNN the stains weren’t blood — and so the shoes were not collected as potential evidence.
So who owned the gym shoes? The shoes could be a critical clue in the investigation.
Copus said he can’t explain how investigators handled items found around the gym.
“If you’re running a crime scene, then you’re going to say ‘That’s potential evidence. Obviously, we’re going to check this out and find out who does it belong to,’ ” he told CNN.
Adding to the family’s agony is another devastating development: Kendrick’s organs were removed during an autopsy, but his body and skull were stuffed with newspaper before burial.
“We have been let down again,” Kenneth Johnson, Kendrick’s father, told CNN. “When we buried Kendrick, we thought we were burying Kendrick, not half of Kendrick.”
Two agencies handled Kendrick Johnson’s body after his death — the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which conducted the first autopsy in January; and the Harrington Funeral Home in Valdosta.
But nobody is taking responsibility for Kendrick’s missing organs.
“It’s unbearable, just about,” Jacquelyn Johnson, Kendrick’s mother, told CNN, adding that stuffing her son’s body with old newspapers was “like he was a garbage can.”
Meanwhile, Lowndes High School administration official have refused to release video of Johnson’s last moments at the school. CNN reported that no students, teachers or administrators noticed that Johnson was missing from his classes until his father worried that he did not return home after school.
The Georgia county coroner, Bill Watson, admitted that the county’s sheriff’s department did not notify him about Johnson’s death on January 11. It is unclear how long it took for the sheriff’s department to notify Watson, or if any evidence was removed or tampered with.
Kenneth Johnson, said the investigation is shady.
“They know something happened in that gym, and they don’t want it to come out,” he said.
What happened to Kendrick Johnson? Will we ever know? Even though police investigators quickly closed the case, I still believe somebody knows something – and somebody saw something.
There are still more questions than answers.
“Someone murdered him,” Johnson said. “They should be in jail.”
This so-called investigation is a travesty. The Johnson family needs closure — but they also deserve to know the truth.