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)