Valdosta Daily Times

Kendrick Johnson

November 23, 2013

Where was Kendrick?

Mystery surrounds KJ’s whereabouts in hours before his death


VALDOSTA — Investigators asked the victim why he did not call authorities, and he stated that “he thought (the police) would think it was him who had killed Kendrick.” Investigators asked why he thought anyone would think he would have something to do with Kendrick’s death, and he responded by saying, “Man, how do they know all this and y’all don’t, y’all are supposed to be on top of your game.”

He told investigators that he did not know why people thought he had something to do with Johnson’s death and that he had “no problems” with him. The victim initially said he did not have a Facebook page but later admitted he did have one.

Chief Childress said Valdosta police interviewed a member of Kendrick Johnson’s family in reference to the assault and ruled the victim out as a suspect. Charges were never filed in the assault incident.

Significantly, the police investigation file contained information on the EMS report by the South Georgia Medical Center’s Mobile Healthcare Service following the 911 report of a dead body found Jan. 11 at Lowndes High.

The report names Kendrick L. Johnson as the patient and does not make note of any visible injuries or hemorrhaging. As for the cause of death, it was the “crew’s impression” that it was “cardiac arrest.”

The report notes that “bruising” can be seen on the right jaw, but it also documents “lividity and mottling” to the face and arms. Lividity occurs when the heart stops pumping and blood pools within vessels. When the blood escapes the vessels, bruising often results, according to medical experts.

The case file also contained an unsigned and undated report from Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson that was faxed to the sheriff’s office Jan. 15. A second signed and dated report exists, but it was not in the case file.

The first report includes limited information, but Watson does make a note that he was not notified by investigators until 3:45 p.m. on Jan. 11,  more than six hours after Johnson’s body was found.

Sheriff Chris Prine acknowledged Watson should have been notified earlier but that the delay was not unusual even though state law requires the coroner to declare the cause of death as soon as possible. Prine said there was little the coroner could do until investigators secured all of the evidence, including the body.

“It’s been kind of an understanding with all of the coroners from the surrounding counties,” said Prine. “Rather than sitting there in the parking lot waiting for us to finish, you just call them when you get to the body. And I swear to you no law-enforcement officer touched that body until the coroner got there and examined it.”

The coroner’s second report was made after the body was released to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for an official autopsy on Jan. 14. Watson signed and dated the report Jan. 22. He claimed the scene where Kendrick’s body was found “had been compromised and that there was no cooperation from law enforcement on the scene.”

He also stated the integrity of the investigation was compromised on Jan. 13 “by the opening of the sealed (body) bag and exhibiting the dead body to the father.”

Watson told The Times that while the scene where the body was found had been compromised, the conclusions of the investigators “didn’t leave anything out.”

Dr. Maryanne Gaffney-Kraft conducted an autopsy of Johnson’s body on Jan. 14 at the GBI State Crime Lab in Macon.

The autopsy found “congestive-decomposition changes of the head, neck, torso and upper extremities” and no injuries other than “superficial abrasions” on the right wrist and the “left distal fourth finger.” It noted that Johnson’s fingernails were “intact, trimmed and worn short” with “no obvious foreign body material present.” Social media has circulated rumors Kendrick’s fingernails had either been clipped or removed.

 Dr. Gaffney-Kraft’s concluded  that Kendrick died as the result of positional asphyxia “and that the manner of death was accidental.”

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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