Valdosta Daily Times

June 15, 2013

Kendrick Johnson’s body exhumed

Quinten Plummer
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — The family of a deceased Lowndes High School student had his body exhumed Friday morning from Sunset Hills Cemetery as relatives continue the process of acquiring a second autopsy.

“The City of Valdosta received a court order from a superior court judge here in Lowndes, which authorized the Johnson family to exhume the body,” said Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress of the 6 a.m. Friday exhumation of Kendrick Johnson’s remains.

Police department officials accompanied the Johnsons to the plot to preserve the chain of custody.

“Anytime a body is moved, the tomb has to be removed and it isn’t allowed to be opened at the site,” said Childress. “We complied with the court order and (the Johnsons) have 30 days to return the body to the cemetery to be re-buried. Everything went smoothly.”

In January, Kendrick Johnson, 17, was found dead in Lowndes High School’s old gym.

Investigation lead detectives and medical experts concluded that the sophomore had perished due to positional asphyxia as he attempted to retrieve shoes from a stack of wrestling mats that had been rolled and stood upright. The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation concluded the death was accidental.

The Johnson family disagrees with these findings and has expressed a belief that foul play was involved in Kendrick Johnson’s death.

It is Childress’ understanding that the family intends to ship the body to a lab in Florida, where a state-certified medical examiner would perform the private autopsy.

“I’m really proud of how the cemetery staff handled the exhumation,” said Childress. “This is the first time I’ve seen this in my law-enforcement career. The crew showed a lot of compassion and they handled it in a dignified manner.”