Kendrick Johnson: New autopsy in ‘gym mat death’ disputes it was accidental

Kendrick Johnson was found dead in a rolled-up gym mat (Photo source: Kenneth and Jackie Johnson)

It’s been nearly six years since the body of Kendrick Johnson was found in a rolled-up gym mat at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia, on Jan. 11, 2013. Kendrick’s mother had gone to the police to report her son missing some 48 hours earlier after he never returned home from school. When Johnson’s body was found, it shocked the entire community and put Georgia in the national spotlight.

Authorities had hypothesized that Kendrick was trying to retrieve a sneaker from inside the gym mat and somehow lost his balance, becoming wedged inside. An autopsy performed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations ruled his death accidental due to “positional asphyxiation.”

But the family did not agree with this ruling and paid for a second autopsy. The autopsy revealed blunt force trauma to the right side of Kendrick’s neck, near the jaw, and the manner of death was not an accident. Also, hemorrhages were found to the jawline area not detected during the GBI autopsy. The results of the second autopsy sparked outrage and a legal journey by Johnson’s parents. Kenneth and Jackie Johnson were not satisfied with the answers they were receiving and pressed hard for justice.

Last week, the results of a third autopsy were made public by the family and evidence supports results from the previous post-mortem on Kendrick.  The third autopsy states that Kendrick’s cause of death was “non-accidental” with “blunt force trauma” to his right neck and right upper chest. The Johnsons have sent the results the Lowndes County Sheriff in hopes of having the case reopened. It is the latest in the long quest for justice by Kendrick’s parents.

In  2017, the Johnson’s pursued a $100M lawsuit against the GBI, county and school officials as well as, Rick Bell and his sons Brian and Braden, who were the prime suspects in Kendrick’s death. The Johnsons withdrew their case with the intention to refile the suit at another time. A judge ordered Kenneth and Jackie Johnson to pay $300K in legal fees to those they accused of conspiring to cover up their son’s death. It was a financial blow that has had a devastating impact for parents who just wanted answers.

Read the background on Kendrick Johnson’s death in Valdosta, Georgia

The next page features graphic images that were released to the public after Kendrick’s death. (NSFW)

Mo Barnes
Mo Barnes

Maurice "Mo" Barnes is a graduate of Morehouse College and Political Scientist based in Atlanta. Mo is also a Blues musician. He has been writing for Rolling Out since 2014. Whether it means walking through a bloody police shooting to help a family find justice or showing the multifaceted talent of the Black Diaspora I write the news.