Gym mat death: Parents must pay legal fees of those suspected in cover-up

kendrick johnson
Kendrick Johnson with his parents

On January 11, 2013, Kendrick Johnson’s lifeless body was upside down when it was discovered inside a rolled up wrestling mat in the gymnasium of Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia, where he was a student. Some has gone so far as to state he caused his own death after attempting to retrieve a shoe that had fallen down in the mat. A preliminary investigation and autopsy concluded the teen’s death was accidental. A medical examiner, Dr. Maryanne Gaffney-Kraft, determined he died of “positional asphyxia.”

His parents, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, had his body exhumed and hired an independent pathologist who performed a second autopsy on Johnson’s body. The medical examiner concluded Johnson’s death was a result of a homicide. Evidence of “blunt force trauma to the right side of Kendrick’s neck, near the jaw, and the manner of death was not an accident,” the Justice Department statement details. “He found hemorrhages to the jaw line area not detected during the GBI autopsy.”

Georgia chief medical examiner Dr. Kris Sperry who supervised Gaffney-Kraft’s autopsy in an interview with WSB TV in Atlanta says the independent review commissioned by the Johnson family was “woefully inadequate and inconclusive.”

In an effort to find answers in the mysterious death of their son, 17, Johnson’s family sued various city and county officials alleging they were complicit in their loved one’s death and in covering for Brian and Branden Bell.

In June, the U.S. Attorney’s Office found “insufficient evidence” to charge anyone with Johnson’s unusual death.

On Thursday, August 18, 2016, Judge Richard Porter stated in an email sent to all parties involved, “I have concluded that the motions should be granted and that some amount would be awarded in each motion.” Johnson’s grieving family has ben ordered to pay attorney’s free in the $100 million lawsuit that was filed by their attorney, Chevene King, but eventually dropped in March 2016, but stated more charges would be filed at a later date. The accused parties are seeking to reclaim $850,000. Hearings will resume 9 a.m. Monday at the Lowndes County Courthouse to determine the amounts.

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