Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

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.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Cardiovascular Surgeons.jpg SGMC hires three cardiovascular surgeons

    South Georgia Medical Center has hired three cardiovascular surgeons, according to the hospital Wednesday.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Moody firefighter 2.jpg Moody firefighter feeds burning passion for food

    He can bust down a burning door and save lives from a flaming inferno. If the kitchen survives, he might whip up some elegant blackened salmon.

    July 31, 2014 3 Photos

  • vpd accreditation.jpg VPD receives national reaccreditation

    The Valdosta Police Department received reaccreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies and is ready to file for accreditation for the regional crime lab.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fussell Tire & Service to expand into new facility

    An existing business will open a new facility and expand its operations, according to the Valdosta-Lowndes County Development Authority Wednesday.

    July 31, 2014

  • Brown Johnson Solis Cardiovascular Surgeons.jpeg Cardiac, Vascular, Thoracic & Endovascular Surgeons Join South Georgia Medical Center

    The three surgeons will operate a full-time medical practice and professional office named the SGMC CardioVascular Institute.  The medical office, which is located in Suite 230 of the Professional Building which is adjacent to SGMC, will be open 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140729-Gas_Leak002.jpg Roadway closed after second gas line break

    For a second day in a row, workers from Valdosta’s Utilities Department struck a natural gas service line causing a leak that shut down a portion of Forrest Street, officials said.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • dump truck arrest photo.jpg Deputies nab stolen dump truck suspects

    The search for suspected dump truck thieves ended Tuesday afternoon with the arrest of two men in the same area officials searched extensively Monday.

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bears sighted on Baytree

    A pair of bear sightings along Baytree Road this week could indicate a growing black bear population in Lowndes County.

    July 30, 2014

  • Johnson family files second suit against school

    Two months after filing a civil suit against Lowndes County Schools, Kendrick Johnson’s parents have filed a second suit against the school system which again claims that negligence and bullying led to their son’s death.

    July 30, 2014

  • Teachers Harvest

    With students and teachers returning to the classroom in the coming days, the need for school supplies is at the top of numerous priority lists. For teachers, this often means spending their money to ensure classrooms are fully stocked.

    July 30, 2014

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results