Valdosta Daily Times

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November 22, 2013

Finding Kendrick

VALDOSTA — The Times reviews the morning of Jan. 11, the day when Kendrick Johnson's body was discovered

The Times continues its in-depth look at the investigative case file into the January death of Kendrick Johnson at Lowndes High School. In this report, The Times details what happened on the morning of Jan. 11, in the hours after Kendrick's family had filed a missing person report on their son to Lowndes County and state law-enforcement agencies' investigation into his death.

This is the second part of an ongoing review of videotapes and files which led law-enforcement to declare the death an accident. These files were released in the court order requested by the Johnson family, which believes that Kendrick's death was the result of foul play.

The Times' summaries form a narrative following the investigation into Kendrick’s death and are the result of hours of research reviewing the case file, scene and autopsy photographs and surveillance footage.

The Morning

Jacquelyn Johnson was already at Lowndes High School on the morning of Jan. 11, the day her 17-year-old son’s body was found in the school’s old gym, according to Kendrick Johnson’s investigative case file. When she arrived, school personnel had been trying since 7:45 a.m. to locate Kendrick after Lowndes County Sheriff's Deputy Mike Adams, one of the school’s resource officers, received the missing persons report that Jacqueline had made at 12:30 a.m. that morning.

Arabi Hall works in the administration office, and she called Kendrick’s first block teacher, Bobby Wilson, and confirmed that he was not in his first block class that morning. Hall was printing color pictures of the missing student when she was told that Jacquelyn was at the school and wanted to speak with her about Kendrick.

Jacquelyn and her daughter told Hall that Kendrick did not have any girlfriends and gave her the name of his best friend.

After discovering that Kendrick’s best friend had been suspended, a deputy was dispatched to his residence. Meanwhile, Jacquelyn went to the guidance office to speak with Dana Hutchinson, the guidance counselor assigned to her children.

She met with Hutchinson at approximately 8:45 a.m. to discuss her daughter’s Georgia High School Graduation Test.

In the case file, Hutchinson states that she left Jacquelyn Johnson, her daughter and a small boy who was with them in her office while she retrieved study materials from a classroom. When she returned about 10 minutes later and explained all of the paperwork, the daughter stood up and walked out of the office.

Hutchinson said that Kendrick’s mother then asked if report cards went out the day before and if she could have one printed for her. While the report card was printing, Jacquelyn Johnson told Hutchinson that Kendrick had not come home the previous night.

Hutchinson looked at attendance records and found that he had been marked absent during fourth block the previous day, Jan. 10. She called a few students from Kendrick’s classes and Krista Royal, Kendrick’s third block teacher, to her office to ask if Kendrick was present in his first three classes on Jan. 10. Each said he had been present.

Vikings Head Football Coach Randy MacPherson confirmed to Hutchinson that Kendrick was not present during fourth block weight training on Jan. 10. Jacquelyn said it was unlike her son to skip a class, and Hutchinson agreed.

Jacquelyn received “either a call or a text” and asked Hutchinson if she knew why there was a fire truck and an ambulance at the school.

Shortly after, Deputy Adams came into the office and said that contact had been made with Kendrick’s best friend who said he had not seen him “since school.”

A few other students were called into the office to determine if they had seen Kendrick at the basketball game the previous night. These students said they had not seen him.

Sandra Wilcher, a school social worker, entered Hutchinson’s office and asked her to step out for a moment. The school’s guidance counselors met in a separate office, and Wilcher informed them that a body had been found on campus. The counselors were instructed not to mention anything to anyone unless instructed to do so by the administration because the body had not been identified.

When Hutchinson returned to her office, Jacquelyn asked if the school was on lockdown because she received a call from an individual who was trying to get on campus to pick up the young child. Hutchinson said she would see what she could do to let the individual on campus.

At 10:41 a.m., Jacquelyn left the office with Hutchinson and said she would go to the parking lot to meet the person who was picking up the child, according to Hutchinson.

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