Valdosta Daily Times

Kendrick Johnson

April 11, 2013

Family wants answers in LHS student's death

VALDOSTA — For a second day, downtown commuters have been jolted into their mornings by posters bearing a gruesome photo of a deceased Lowndes High student, but family members and supporters have stated their intent to continue waving images of Kendrick Johnson’s blistered and bloated face before motorists until the investigation into his January 2013 death has concluded.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s inquiry into the 17-year-old’s death is still open and the autopsy is not yet complete, but for Kendrick’s family and friends, the wait has been too long and they're looking for answers. The family and supporters have  been waving signs bearing an image of his face post-mortem labeled with slogans such as “Honk your horn for KJ” and “Justice for Kendrick.”

“We want justice for Kendrick Johnson,” said his mother Jackie Johnson at the rally Wednesday morning on the corner outside of the Lowndes County Judicial Complex. She wouldn’t reveal how the family obtained the image or share its source.

“I want the people to know that my son was murdered at Lowndes High School,” she said, “and we will not stop until we have justice. We’ll be out here everyday until someone gives us some answers and the people responsible are behind bars.”

Half a block down from Kendrick’s mother, two of his aunts, Tesha Tooley and Stacy Rho, were encouraging horn honks in support of the group’s efforts.

“This is not a racial thing. It’s not about black and it’s not about white — it’s about justice,” said Tooley. “We want justice. Even if it happened to a white child, we’d be out here supporting that white family. So it’s about justice and not about race. My sister sent her child to school to get an education, not to be murdered.”

The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office has concluded its investigation, noting in January that authorities suspected no foul play in the student’s death. The sheriff’s office has been assisting the GBI when asked, Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine said Wednesday.

“We just sent the GBI a second blood sample to look at it again and make sure everything is like they say it is,” said Prine. “We’re just cooperating with them and getting them anything they need. Of course, we always work deaths similar to this one as a homicide investigation until it’s been proven accidental — and that’s how we’ve treated this investigation.”

Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson has been in contact with the GBI regarding Kendrick’s autopsy, he said. But the Coroner hasn’t enjoyed the same level of cooperation from the sheriff’s office as the GBI, said Watson, who also stated he wasn’t contacted when Kendrick’s body was first discovered.

“This was not fair to the decedent, his family, and the citizens of Valdosta and Lowndes County, Ga. And it’s wrong as rain,” Watson said in January when he spoke to The Times. “You may not want me on your crime scene, but it’s a law. It’s not something you can change your mind about.”

As appalling as the image of Kendrick’s post-mortem face may be, it’s up to the GBI’s medical experts to determine if the lacerations and bruising were the result of positional asphyxiation and elapsed time, or if it was the result of foul play.

“The unofficial ruling from the crime lab was that it was certainly an accident and there were no signs of foul play, whatsoever,” said Prine. “Once we get the final results back from the autopsy, that information will be made available to the public. I feel very badly for the suffering that family has to go through, and of course, our hearts and prayers go out to the family. It was a terrible way to end a life and we’re doing everything we can.”

Kendrick’s family has reportedly hired an attorney, backed by a pair of retired homicide detectives conducting their own investigation, but The Times’ phone calls to the reported attorney weren’t returned.

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Kendrick Johnson
  • 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

  • 131107-Johnsons call#107597.JPG Johnson family appealing judge's decision

    “I think the tapes show that there is some conspiracy to conceal the truth from this family and to the public as to who killed Kendrick Johnson,” said Benjamin Crump, lawyer for the Johnson family.

    November 8, 2013 2 Photos

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