The parents of a south Georgia teen found dead inside a rolled-up wrestling mat in a high school gym want federal authorities to reopen a case that had been declared an accident, the family’s attorney said Wednesday.
Sheriff’s investigators had decided after months of investigation that 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson died in a freak accident after he was found stuck upside down Jan. 11 in the rolled-up mat, which was propped upright behind bleachers at a Lowndes County High School gym.
Family attorney Chevene King said Wednesday that a new autopsy by a private pathologist has concluded the boy died from an apparently non-accidental blow to the neck. Johnson’s parents had reported the teen missing when he didn’t return from school Jan. 10.
Sheriff Chris Pine in Lowndes County has previously said he suspected Johnson became trapped while trying to retrieve a shoe that fell into the center of the large rolled mat. A Georgia Bureau of Investigation medical examiner concluded the youth died from positional asphyxia, his body stuck in a position in which he couldn’t breathe.
But the teen’s parents, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, hired Dr. William R. Anderson to provide a second opinion after a judge agreed in May to exhume the body. The pathologist performed his own autopsy in June and presented a four-page report of his findings Aug. 15.
Anderson’s report said he detected hemorrhaging on the right side of Johnson’s neck. The pathologist concluded the teenager had died from blunt force trauma near his carotid artery and that the fatal blow appeared to be “non-accidental.”
King said the findings appear consistent with a possible assault.