No Charges Will Be Filed in Mysterious Death of Kendrick Johnson
No criminal charges will be filed in the strange death of Kendrick Johnson, a black teenager whose body was found in 2013 wrapped in a gym mat at his Valdosta, Georgia, high school.
Johnson's parents have been agonizing over their son's death for three years now, disregarding investigators who said it was a "freak accident" and pushing the case all the way to the U.S. Department of Justice.
"After extensive investigation into this tragic event, federal investigators determined that there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone or some group of people willfully violated Kendrick Johnson's civil rights or committed any other prosecutable federal crime," the DOJ said in a statement, according to AP.
"Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed without the filing of federal criminal charges."
The circumstances around Johnson's death have fueled conspiracy theories for years. They are certainly strange: On Jan. 11, 2013, students at Lowndes County High School found their 17-year-old classmate's body wrapped in a large, rolled-up mat inside the gymnasium, where a security camera had captured Johnson entering the day before.
A Lowndes County sheriff's investigation and an autopsy performed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation concluded that Johnson had fallen onto the mat and asphyxiated while looking for a missing shoe. But no footage exists of that part of the incident — investigators suspected Johnson did not trigger the motion sensor cameras in the area of the gym where the mats were located, according to AP.
Sensing something was amiss, however, the parents, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, alleged foul play. They convinced a judge to exhume their son's body and ordered a follow-up autopsy performed in June 2013, only to learn Johnson's organs had been removed and his corpse stuffed with newspapers, according to CNN.
"The pathologist ... Dr. William R. Anderson — said he'd detected hemorrhaging on the right side of Kendrick Johnson's neck, and concluded the boy died from what appeared to be non-accidental blunt force trauma."
This was apparently done by the county coroner's office before it sent Johnson's body to the funeral home — a measure the office deemed necessary, it claimed, because the organs were too badly decomposed to be left inside, according to CBS News. The Johnsons ended up filing a lawsuit against the funeral home in 2014, alleging its employees disposed of the organs to "thwart" the investigation into the death, CNN reported.
Things only got stranger from there. The pathologist the Johnsons hired to perform the second autopsy — Dr. William R. Anderson — said he'd detected hemorrhaging on the right side of Kendrick Johnson's neck, and concluded the boy died from non-accidental blunt force trauma, CBS News reported.
The DOJ stepped in to investigate the case in October 2013.
The family's attorneys have also since claimed the footage of Johnson entering the gym had been intentionally altered for the media, according to AP. In the end, however, none of this proved substantial enough to warrant criminal charges against anyone. And so, Johnson's death remains one of the more baffling mysteries of recent years — and a case the boy's parents have continued to pursue.
Lowndes County coroner Bill Watson did not immediately respond to Mic's request for comment.