Valdosta Daily Times

Kendrick Johnson

November 22, 2013

Finding Kendrick


VALDOSTA — The Scene

At 10:32 a.m., Deputy Kerry Quinn was dispatched to LHS for a “code blue” and arrived at 10:35 a.m. As he approached the old gym, he saw students running and overheard them saying, “that was a dead body.” Quinn approached the southwest corner of the gym and “detected a mild odor of a corpse.”

Pieplow was bent near the body and told Quinn, “I don’t think anyone can help him.”

Shortly after, a perimeter was established with crime-scene tape and secured by deputies. Personnel from the sheriff’s office, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and the Valdosta-Lowndes Regional Crime Laboratory responded to the scene.

At 11:25 a.m., an initial walkthrough was conducted by investigators wearing Nitrile gloves, and they documented that there was no sign of forced entry to the old gym through doors or windows.

After a 3D image of the interior scene was created using a Leica Scanning System, investigators used a digital camera to take photos of the school's exterior and slowly progressed to the interior of the gym then to where Kendrick’s body was found inside of the mat.

Hundreds of photographs were taken, including photographs of items that would be taken into evidence, including the yellow folder that Kendrick is seen carrying in surveillance footage of him entering the gym the previous day.

When Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson conducted his examination, Kendrick’s body was lying “approximately on his left side, sticking out of the rolled-up mat from his head to approximately his abdominal area.” Photos of the scene show blood on the floor pooled around the head.

A pair of white, grey and orange Nike shoes were found inside the mat with the body, and one black and white Adidas shoe was found near Kendrick’s head in the pool of blood. The Adidas shoe matched another shoe found on the floor in front of the mats.

Kendrick’s body was removed from the mat to be examined. Rigor and livor mortis had set in, and the face was swollen with blood exiting from his eyes, nose and mouth. No signs of blunt-force trauma can be seen on Johnson’s face or body, according to the narrative in the case file, but there were “visible signs of skin slippage on Johnson’s abdomen area, face and arm,” details that were documented with photographs.

Photographs of Kendrick’s body included in the unredacted case file show a swollen and disfigured face but not a face that resembles the photos purported to be Kendrick that family members and supporters have held up in view of motorists at the intersection near the Lowndes County Judicial Complex.

The Times has contacted lawyers for the Johnson family on multiple occasions in an attempt to obtain a copy of the image and learn when and where it was taken. The family's attorneys have not responded to these requests.

The mat in which Kendrick was found measured 74 inches in length, approximately six feet and a quarter of an inch. The opening of the rolled-up mat where Kendrick’s feet were positioned measured approximately 14.5 inches in diameter. The opening where his head was positioned was approximately 14.75 inches.

Bloody paper towels were discovered in a girl’s restroom near the old gym and were collected. Investigators later matched the DNA of the blood sample to a member of the school’s color guard who injured herself during practice in the old gym the previous night.

Stains on the south wall of the old gym that appeared to be blood were tested by a GBI crime scene specialist and determined to be blood. A DNA test later showed that the blood did not belong to Kendrick.

Kendrick’s body was removed from the scene by Owens Transport and taken to the Valdosta-Lowndes Regional Crime Lab. His body arrived at the lab at approximately 5:30 p.m. and placed in Body Cooler #2 to await transport to the GBI lab in Macon, where an autopsy would be performed.

On Jan. 13, Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine requested that arrangements be made for Kendrick’s father, Kenneth Johnson, to be allowed to make a positive identification of his son. Investigators escorted Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson to the crime lab where the parents made the positive identification.

On Jan. 14, Kendrick’s body was released to Steve Owens for transport to Macon for the GBI autopsy.


The Evidence From the GBI medical examiner’s inventory:

the body of Kendrick Johnson

two white socks

one pair of pants with a cloth belt

one pair of black shorts

one yellow/orange shirt

one pair of plaid underwear

one white tank top T-shirt

one white short-sleeved shirt

three tan/brown rubberband-like hair ties

white earbud headphones with black wire (broken)

Text Only
Kendrick Johnson
  • KJ’s parents claim racial bullying in lawsuit

    The parents of Kendrick Johnson have sued the Lowndes County School System, claiming officials neglected to protect their son from racial harassment and bullying that they said led to his death.

    May 15, 2014

  • Anonymous email in KJ case based on rumor, says author

    The teenage girl who authored an anonymous email claiming someone had confessed to murdering Kendrick Johnson says it was strictly a rumor that she felt conscience-bound to share with the sheriff’s office.

    March 27, 2014

  • keyboard.jpg Authorities: Confession in KJ case not credible

    An anonymous email claiming a former classmate of Kendrick Johnson had confessed to killing him was investigated and determined not to be credible, the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday.

    March 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • social.jpg Mom says sons harassed, threatened in KJ case

    Karen Bell has had it with the rumor-mongering about her family’s connection to the death of Kendrick Johnson on social networking sites like YouTube,  Twitter and Facebook.

    February 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Johnsons file civil suit against funeral home

    Kendrick Johnson’s parents have filed a civil lawsuit against the Harrington Funeral Home, claiming it negligently handled their son’s remains and deliberately withheld information about the condition of his body.

    February 6, 2014

  • 140121-Floyd_Rose001.jpg No response to KJ reward

    A local civil rights leader returned reward money to its donor Tuesday after it failed to yield any significant information pertaining to the death of Kendrick Johnson.

    January 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • State capitol rally today for new KJ probe

    A three-hour rally for a new investigation into the disputed death of Lowndes High student Kendrick Johnson 11 months ago is planned today on the front steps of the Georgia Capitol building.

    December 11, 2013

  • 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.

    November 23, 2013 1 Photo 2 Stories

  • kendrick-johnson.jpg Finding Kendrick

    The Times continues its in-depth look at the investigative case file into the January death of Kendrick Johnson at Lowndes High School.

    November 22, 2013 1 Photo

  • kendrick-johnson.jpg Kendrick’s Final Walk

    A review of Lowndes High School video footage shows more than the moments Kendrick Johnson entered the old gymnasium where his body was discovered Jan. 11 in a rolled wrestling mat.

    November 21, 2013 1 Photo

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