Georgia teen was stuffed with newspaper after death, family lawyer says
By Elizabeth Chuck, Staff Writer, NBC News
mysterious death of a Georgia teen has taken a bizarre twist with the
revelation that an autopsy of his exhumed remains found his internal
organs missing and his body stuffed with newspaper.
The family of
Kendrick Johnson, 17, of Valdosta, Ga., was "outraged" and "devastated"
by the discovery and believes his death was a murder that is being
covered up, a lawyer representing them said Thursday.
three-sport athlete, was found dead on Jan. 11 in a rolled-up wrestling
mat in his high school gym. State medical examiners concluded that he
accidentally suffocated while trying to retrieve a sneaker.
But his parents, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, were doubtful about that conclusion.
"It didn't make any sense," Kenneth Johnson told MSNBC's Tamron Hall on Thursday.
"We know how Kendrick is," Jacquelyn Johnson added. "We know he would have never crawled up in no mat."
In June, they won a court order to have Kendrick's body exhumed for a second autopsy.
What the private pathologist who performed the second autopsy found was shocking. The results came back in September.
were no organs in there," Benjamin Crump, co-counsel for Kendrick's
family, said. "He [also] concluded that it was a homicide, and that he
died from blunt force trauma."
The autopsy showed Kendrick suffered hemorrhaging on the right side of his neck.
from the teen's torso up to his skull had been removed and replaced
with newspaper after his death, Crump said, something that disturbed his
"They thought that they had their whole son returned to them. They only had half of their son returned to them," he said.
All of his clothes were also missing.
"It's very hard for we as parents to have to go through this ordeal," said Kenneth Johnson.
body had been in three places after he died: possession of the local
sheriff when the crime occurred; the Georgia Bureau of Investigation,
which conducted the first autopsy in January; and the Harrington Funeral
Home in Valdosta, which handled the embalming and burial, according to
Harrington Funeral Home and the Valdosta sheriff did not return a request for comment from NBC News.
Lang, director of public affairs at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation
said, "We stand behind our medical examiner's office and their autopsy
report on this case. We returned the organs with the body to the funeral
home. It's our policy and it's our practice on every single autopsy
that we do."
On Thursday, Kendrick's parents announced they
planned to seek legal action against government officials who may have
had involvement in covering up their son's murder.
"To find his
organs are missing is just insult on top of injury," Crump said.
"They're outraged. They've been outraged for the last nine months."
added that the death of the track, basketball, and football star, who
he described as a "good kid," left the family "devastated."
"It's been heartbreaking," Jacquelyn Johnson told MSNBC.
family's attorney, C.B. King, told MSNBC he is seeking to get all the
surveillance footage from the gymnasium where Kendrick died released —
which the school has yet to grant him.
"We know that there at least four video cameras, one of which is
aimed directly in the area where the mat is that his body was located,"
King said. "What does this video show? We can't help but believe it
would be the clearest proof of whether or not the sheriff's theory is
correct. It would show him getting into the mat, or if doesn't show
that, it would show how his body wound up in the gym the following
Lowndes County High School declined to comment.
King said a U.S. attorney is examining Kendrick's file and is considering opening up an investigation into his case.
Crump said Kendrick's parents feel the cover-up is limited to their son, but want to know why it happened.
lot of people in the community believe they know who did this [the
murder]," he said. "The question is why was it covered up. Right now we
think that the truth is right under our noses and it's going to come
out. This murder mystery will be solved."
He would not disclose who the family suspected was responsible for the death.
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