Valdosta Daily Times

Kendrick Johnson

May 3, 2013

Justice for KJ

Autopsy rules student’s death accidental; family and supporters disagree

VALDOSTA — While an autopsy report released Thursday morning mirrored the sheriff’s office conclusion that a Lowndes High School student’s January death was accidental, demonstrators echoed the sentiments of the late Kendrick Johnson’s family outside the Lowndes County Board of Education that afternoon as the group called for a new investigation.

The autopsy report on Johnson was reviewed Thursday morning on a conference call between the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, the Lowndes County Coroner’s Office and the Southern District Attorney’s office, according to a release from Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine.

Based on the findings of the investigation, physical evidence, forensic sciences and the autopsy, the death of Kendrick Johnson has been ruled as an accident as a result of positional asphyxia, according to the release.

However, the Johnsons and their supporters made known their disbelief of the finding during Thursday’s rally.

Protesters marched from the intersection of St. Augustine Road and Norman Drive down to the board of education offices, bellowing chants of “Justice for K.J.” and “No Justice, No Peace,” as supporters have been doing for the past few weeks downtown.

Sheriff Prine and several deputies stood in front of the board of education, restricting protesters to the outskirts of the grounds and absorbing the incendiary accusations that were hurled their way over a bullhorn.

Roughly 16 weeks have passed since the student’s body was discovered inverted and wedged within wrestling mats in the school’s gym, but activist Stephen Green said that the group’s resolve to find justice for Johnson hasn’t wavered.

Green trekked down from Morehouse to rally with the Johnson supporters, along with harbingers from Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. Sharpton is scheduled to speak at a KJ rally Saturday at Valdosta’s Serenity Church.

“We’ve come down here today to let this sheriff and this county know, that courage will not skip this generation,” said Green. “We will not be silent if Lowndes County, Ga., is willing to go down as the Selma of our generation. We will not back down.”

Bobby Worth, founder of the Justice League Unite, Inc., traveled south to rally with the Johnson family and their supporters Thursday. He encouraged students to share any detail they could to pinpoint a murder, but he also asked students to take their protests a step further.

“If you go to Lowndes High School or if you have a buddy that's involved with that school,” said Worthy, “stand with us and withdraw from that system and let these people know. If you’re black, withdraw yourself. Be done with these people until they tell us who the murderer is, either in the sheriff’s department or the Lowndes County school system.”

Though passionate and assertive in their stated beliefs that Johnson was murdered, Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress said the group was extremely cooperative and that the police department was only on scene to facilitate a safe rally for demonstrators and passersby alike.

With the investigation closed, Prine disclosed more details on his office’s efforts during the investigation into Johnson’s death.

“Although not previously released, Sheriff Prine stated that this investigation was very extensive and included the completion of multiple forensic tests, including DNA samples collected from the scene and the interview of over 100 persons, including students, teachers and other people who were identified as the investigation progressed. Nothing learned during the investigation has indicated anything other than this was a tragic accident. Sheriff Prine continued to express his sorrow for the family and hopes that with the release of the investigative findings, including the medical findings, the family can find the answers they seek and begin the healing process.”

The Valdosta Daily Times submitted an Open Records Request Thursday for a copy of the autopsy report, and is anticipating the report to be released by the Sheriff’s Office today.

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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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