Valdosta Daily Times

Big Story AM

November 24, 2013

Rumors addressed in KJ case

Online posts bring denials from Johnson’s mother

VALDOSTA — Editor’s Note

This is the final of four stories reviewing the investigative case file of Kendrick Johnson, the Lowndes High School student whose lifeless body was found Jan. 11 in a rolled wrestling mat in the school’s old gymnasium. Today’s report addresses rumors that stemmed from an online article about possible suspects in Johnson’s death, provides details on a second autopsy conducted at the Johnson family’s request, and tells what’s next in the disputed death case.

An online magazine report five days ago that two white brothers were interviewed as possible suspects in the death of black teenager Kendrick Johnson has been labeled a “bunch of lies” by Johnson’s mother.

The report was posted Nov. 18 on Ebony.com, the website of Ebony magazine, one of the oldest African-American publications in the country.

The report said the brothers were interviewed by authorities because they had altercations with Johnson and had tweeted about him after his body was found Jan. 11 in a rolled up wrestling mat in the Lowndes County High School’s old gymnasium.

But Jaquelyn Johnson, Kendrick’s mother, disavowed the report on her Twitter account two days after it appeared, saying the author of the Ebony article and a private detective quoted in it were exploiting her son’s death for financial gain.

The author, Fred Rosen, was described by Ebony as a veteran investigative reporter and true crime author. Ebony said the private detective, Beau Webster, was employed by the Johnson family.

Mrs. Johnson said neither of them are part of the family’s effort to get to the truth of her son’s death, and that the names of the brothers in the article were bogus.

The Ebony.com story identified the brothers as Chris and Clark Martin, sons of an FBI agent, and said they were students at Lowndes County High School. But school officials said no students by those names were enrolled last year or this year.

Previous Ebony.com stories on Johnson’s death have used pseudonyms for actual student names but there was no indication that was the case this time.

Yet the brothers’ real names have been published on other media sites in connection with students sought out for interviews by investigators. Sheriff’s Lt. Stryde Jones said it was determined one of the brothers was out of town for an athletic event the day Johnson went missing and the other brother was in class at the other end of the school campus at the time Johnson was last seen.

The Ebony.com article referenced a portion of the official investigative case file that mentions an altercation between Johnson and another football player on the team bus. But it doesn’t note that the altercation occurred a year before Johnson died.

The strange circumstances surrounding the disputed death of Kendrick Johnson more than 10 months ago has generated widespread media interest, unconfirmed reports and rumors galore.

His body was found head first in a rolled, upright wrestling mat in a corner of the gym about 21 hours after he was observed entering the gym on a surveillance camera at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 10.

Investigators for the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office and a state autopsy concluded he died of positional asphyxia from being upside down for an extended period after he got trapped in the mat while reaching for a sneaker. This despite the determination the hole in the rolled mat was 14 inches and his shoulder spread was 19 inches.

Johnson’s parents are certain their son was murdered, causing the U.S. Attorney in Macon to reopen the investigation into the case, including a review of the findings of the sheriff’s office and the state coroner’s office.

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  • Kendrick_Johnson.jpg Rumors addressed in KJ case

    Editor’s Note
    This is the final of four stories reviewing the investigative case file of Kendrick Johnson, the Lowndes High School student whose lifeless body was found Jan. 11 in a rolled wrestling mat in the school’s old gymnasium. Today’s report addresses rumors that stemmed from an online article about possible suspects in Johnson’s death, provides details on a second autopsy conducted at the Johnson family’s request, and tells what’s next in the disputed death case.

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  • Kendrick_Johnson.jpg Where was Kendrick?

    About this series
    This is the third of four stories by the Valdosta Daily Times reviewing the official police file on the investigation into the death of Kendrick Johnson. Today’s report is about the confusion surrounding Kendrick’s whereabouts the day before his body was found, explains police handling of a report that a person was attacked and falsely accused of killing Kendrick, and tells about the dissatisfaction of Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson with how authorities handled the immediate investigation.

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