Kendrick Johnson was found dead 110 days ago. The sophomore’s bruised and battered frame was hidden in a rolled-up mat in Georgia’s Lowndes High School’s gymnasium. Johnson’s parents believe he was murdered and are seeking answers and justice.
Authorities ruled his death accidental, claiming Johnson was ensnared in the mat while attempting to retrieve a piece of clothing. A preliminary autopsy found no signs of struggle or injuries congruent with a murder. The case was closed soon after the autopsy results were released.
This explanation hasn’t persuaded Johnson’s father. Kenneth Johnson believes his son was murdered and left in the mat to be discovered.
“He was last seen third block going to fourth block, he was seen no more,” Johnson told the local news affiliate, WALB. “Then again, I want to express how did my son go missing during school hours in broad daylight? We know our son was murdered while he was at Lowndes High School. We do know that.”
A graphic photo shows Johnson with visible lacerations on his face. The coroner claims the injuries are due to all of the blood rushing to his head while he was attempting to escape the map.
These explanations are not satiating the Johnson’s quest for answers. His parents have requested a complete autopsy, but allege authorities have not been cooperative or transparent about their investigation. Lowndes High School’s administration refuses to release security camera footage of Johnson entering the gymnasium or what occurred in the moments prior to his death.
The sheriff’s department did not contact the coroner until six hours after Johnson’s body was discovered, leading speculation that evidence was either removed or tampered with prior to the notification of death. The coroner, Bill Watson, claims his investigation was compromised by the delay.
“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 told the Examiner.
He continued. “Well it compromises my investigation one hundred percent. I don’t know what the county did when they got there on the scene. The body had been moved. The scene, in my opinion, had been compromised.”
All of these missteps are prompting the Johnson family to continue probing for answers. On April 25, Johnson’s parents staged a demonstration at the Lowndes Judicial Complex in Valdosta, Georgia. Supporters chanted and held “No Justice, No Peace” signs before blocking the front door to the complex.
Johnson’s parents and five other supporters were arrested for civil obedience, but still plan to continue protesting until a resolution is reached.
A final autopsy was conducted, but the results haven’t been released by the GBI Crime Lab. The sheriff’s department has no approximate estimation for when the results will be available.
“We certainly would like to get it as fast as anybody but we don’t know when the GBI will be able to complete this testing,” Lt. Stryde Jones of the Lowndes Co. Sheriff’s Office told The Global Dispatch.
“We’re still waiting the final facts and to close it out prematurely and to make a premature decision would just be totally wrong, and we wouldn’t be doing justice to the family, to the community, or to ourselves as a law enforcement agency,” Jones explained.
Johnson’s father is still grieving. He asked local reporters, “How can you go on when you have a beloved child who wakes up everybody in the house and makes a laugh out of everything, how can you go on? It’s hard.”
However, the family’s mourning is not keeping them from seeking justice for Kendrick.
The question we must all continue to ask is: What happened to Kendrick Johnson?