The Valdosta Daily Times
Fears of a campus killer gripped Lowndes High School upon initial reports in January of a deceased student who appeared to have been rolled into a gym mat, but Thursday’s release of Kendrick Johnson’s official autopsy paint a picture of a healthy high schooler who passed away as a result of a tragic accident.
The story borders on the outlandish to many — the theory that Johnson died trying to retrieve a shoe from a stack of wrestling mats in the high school’s old gym on Jan. 10, 2013. But the investigation into Johnson’s death revealed that students often used the spaces between gym mats as free lockers, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s full report on Johnson’s death details how the teenager died and how dangerous the mats can be.
Positional asphyxia was the official determination of Johnson’s death in the GBI’s report which ruled out blunt force injury and disease. The autopsy reportedly began at 9:40 a.m. on Jan. 14, 2013.
Stroke and seizure were ruled out as blood vessels around Johnson’s neck, heart, lungs, kidneys, and brain were reportedly free of clogs and no lesions were present on the organs.
His skull was free of fractures, according to the report, which rules out Johnson suffering any serious blows to his head around the time of his death.
“A postmortem head X-ray is performed at autopsy and is negative for bony abnormalities [fracture] and [detectable] weaponry,” stated the report.
Johnson’s organs displayed no significant scarring, but they also contained no blood.
“All body organs are present and in their normal anatomical positions,” states the report. “Variable congestive-decomposition changes are present and increase in degree inferior to superior. Intravascular blood is not present.”
A motion-controlled camera recorded Johnson crossing paths with another student and heading in the opposite direction towards the gym mats, which authorities stated had been rolled up and stacked vertically over the Christmas holidays.
A class reportedly filled the empty gym shortly after Johnson went to retrieve his shoes. The time elapsed left just enough time for the teen to lose his life as he attempted to change out of his good shoes between classes.
After taking into account hundreds of interviews and forensic testing, the medical examiner for the state of Georgia concluded the following in Kendrick Johnson’s autopsy:
“The finding at autopsy is a well-developed and well-nourished black teenage male with congestive-decomposition changes of the head, neck, torso, and upper extremities. No significant natural disease process or injuries are identified,” the report states.
“Analysis of postmortem liver for drug screen testing is negative for cocaine, cocaine metabolites and common opioids. Analysis of postmortem liver for drug confirmation testing is negative for a comprehensive drug screen.”
The report concludes, “given the complete autopsy, including toxicology and histology, the scene photographs, the scene forensic testing, the law enforcement investigative finding including crime scene investigator reports and witness statements, and the coroner’s finding; it is my opinion the cause of death in this case is positional asphyxia and the manner of death is accident.”