KENDRICK JOHNSON - 17 yo - Valdosta GA

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KENDRICK JOHNSON - 17 yo - Valdosta GA

Post by mom_in_il on Wed Dec 04, 2013 4:14 pm

Kendrick Johnson Update: Ga. Sec. of State investigating funeral home that handled teen's remains after gym-mat death

Updated 1:54 p.m. EST

(CBS) - The Georgia Secretary of State is investigating the funeral home that handled the remains of a Georgia teen found dead inside a rolled-up wrestling mat in his high school gym, according to a spokesperson for Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

Cody Whitlock said the office of the Secretary of State could not comment further due to its ongoing investigation into the Harrington Funeral Home in Valdosta, Ga. It is unclear when the probe began.

"It's an administrative agency. When matters are raised concerning any industry that they regulate, they clearly have an obligation to investigate," Roy Copeland, the attorney for the funeral home, told Crimesider Tuesday when contacted for a comment.

"I think they're just doing their job," Copeland said. The attorney went on to say he learned of the investigation "two or three weeks ago."

Authorities initially called Kendrick Johnson's death a freak accident, saying he fell head-first into an upright gym mat and became trapped. The case was closed, but Johnson's family insisted he was killed.

When a judge agreed to exhume Johnson's body over the summer, a private pathologist not only determined he died of blunt force trauma to the neck, but also that his organs were missing and his body had been stuffed with newspaper.

How and why this happened is unclear, and a federal prosecutor announced last week that he is reopening the case.

Despite some media reports that only two entities had custody of Kendrick's body after his death, Crimesider has confirmed at least four entities - the Valdosta-Lowndes Regional Crime Laboratory, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), a third-party transport company, and the Harrington Funeral Home - handled the teen's body.

Crimesider reached three of these entities and received some conflicting accounts.The company that transported Johnson's body did not respond to multiple requests for an interview.

On Friday, Harrington Funeral Home directed us to their attorney, Roy Copeland, who referred us to a previously released statement on the case. In it, Copeland wrote that when the funeral home received Johnson's body, the organs had already been removed.

The statement quotes Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson as saying: "In this case, the Viscera, which is the internal organs, were not sent back with the body for disposition. It was confirmed by Mr. Bryan, (a death investigator with the crime lab), who was present at the autopsy, that the viscera were disposed of due to decomposition of the same.'"

When contacted by Crimesider on Friday, coroner Watson first said he has no idea what happened to Johnson's organs.

"I don't know anything about that," Watson said. "What difference does it make? What does it matter to the case?"

When pressed, Watson confirmed that he informed the funeral home that Rodney Bryan, a death investigator with the GBI, told him via telephone that the viscera were disposed of during the autopsy due to decomposition.

Crimesider reached Rodney Bryan via telephone Monday and attempted to question him about the alleged disposal of Johnson's organs; he hung up on us.

Sherry Lang, spokesperson for the GBI, told Crimesider on Monday that Watson's "accounting of the conversation with Mr. Bryan is inaccurate and incorrect." She said Bryan was talking about "vitreous" fluid of the eye, and not "viscera," internal organs. Lang said that in "every single autopsy [conducted at the GBI], the internal organs are returned to the body cavity."

Asked on Tuesday about the GBI's explanation, funeral home attorney Roy Copeland told Crimesider "not only did the coroner" [hear Mr. Ryan say 'viscera']..."Mr. Harrington was on that call as well."

In addition to addressing the issue of the deceased's organs, Copeland's earlier written statement on behalf of Harrington Funeral Home justifies its use of newspaper to stuff Johnson's body, saying it is in conformity with burial protocol.

"It has been suggested that the material used by Mr. Harrington was neither proper, respectable or in conformity with burial protocol," the statement reads. "For those who have drawn such conclusions, it is apparent they have not taken an opportunity to review the means and manner in which decomposed bodies must be prepared for burial."

Crimesider contacted four experts in an effort to understand the "means and manner" in which decomposed bodies are prepared for burial, all of whom said it is not common for newspaper to be used during embalming.

Among them, Sharon Gee, Vice-President of the American Society of Embalmers (ASE), said that stuffing a body with newspaper is "not common practice at all." She said she has never heard of newspaper being used for that purpose.

Melissa Johnson Williams, Executive Director of the ASE, told Crimesider, "Generally speaking, we try and use cotton [to stuff the body if needed]." She said "it would not be standard practice" to stuff a body cavity with newspaper.

Last edited by mom_in_il on Fri Jul 25, 2014 7:44 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Re: KENDRICK JOHNSON - 17 yo - Valdosta GA

Post by mom_in_il on Fri Jul 25, 2014 6:58 pm

WTXL Road Trip: Kendrick Johnson death investigation update

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014 6:43 am
Updated: 1:50 pm, Thu Jul 24, 2014

VALDOSTA (WTXL) - There are many stories about the community being brought together, but in recent history there is one story that has torn the city a part.

For nearly a year and a half, Kendrick Johnson’s friends and family have rallied outside the Lowndes county court house.  But nowadays--it seems that the rally has turned into more of a waiting game.

Barbara English is Kendrick Johnson’s grandmother. She says, “I know that we are not going to give up. We're going to be here until we get some answers, until we get justice for Kendrick."

On January 11th, 2013 Barbara English’s 17 year old grandson was found dead, rolled up in a wrestling mat in the Lowndes County High School gymnasium.

Johnson's family says there were multiple signs to indicate that this wasn't an accidental death, such as the school security cameras showing Kendrick entering the gym, but not getting into the rolled up mat. There was also a shoe and sweatshirt that were found near by but not taken as evidence by officers.  And finally, there were blood stains on a nearby wall.

But the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office closed the case. Luietenant Stride Jones works for the LCSO, “The opinion of our crime scene personnel after looking at it closely, the blood appeared as it had been there for an extended period of time. It doesn't appear to be very fresh."

Unsatisfied with the investigation, the Johnson family had Kendrick’s body exhumed last June and the second autopsy showed that Kendrick died by blunt force trauma, not accidental suffocation as the first autopsy reported.

Attorney Ben Crump, who is known most for representing Treyvon Martin's family, now represents the Johnsons, “The family believes that it's a cover up. They're not saying who responsible for the cover up, but they know without a shadow of a doubt, in their heart of hearts that Kendrick did not die they way they say he died."

In January of this year, investigators received an anonymous email claiming a former schoolmate reportedly confessed to killing Johnson.

U.S. Attorney Michael Moore has now opened a federal investigation and in March, former classmates of Johnson’s were sent subpoenas to appear in federal court.

As the family waits for answers, Kendrick Johnson’s grandmother asks the community to continue to stand behind her family, “What if Kendrick was my child? What if Kendrick was my grandchild? What if Kendrick was my cousin? ... Would they be able to stand fast and fight for justice as we are?"

Not only has there been support from the Valdosta community for the Johnson family, the international community has also come together on Facebook liking a page called "Justice for Kendrick Johnson" that has nearly 8,000 likes."

Crump says, “People care about community, people care about children, and people care about justice."

People in Valdosta have mixed reactions on the death of Kendrick Johnson. Some believe it was an accident others say it was intentional.  They're all waiting on U.S. Attorney Michael Moore to finish the investigation so the family can have answers and the community can heal.
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Re: KENDRICK JOHNSON - 17 yo - Valdosta GA

Post by mom_in_il on Mon Aug 04, 2014 5:16 pm

Parents of Georgia teen found dead inside rolled-up gym mat sue school
Body of Kendrick Johnson, 17, was found in the middle of a mat propped upright against the wall of the school’s gym last year

Associated Press in Valdosta, Georgia
Tuesday 29 July 2014 12.56 EDT

The parents of a south Georgia teenager found dead inside a rolled-up gym mat at school filed a wrongful death lawsuit against local school administrators Monday.

Classmates found the body of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson of Valdosta in the middle of a mat propped upright against the wall of their high school gym January 11, 2013. Sheriff’s investigators concluded that the teenager died in a freak accident, having become stuck upside down in the center of the mat while trying to retrieve a gym shoe. But his parents have long insisted somebody killed him.

The lawsuit filed Monday in Lowndes County Superior Court seeks to hold the county school board, school superintendent and the principal of Lowndes High School responsible. It says Johnson died “at the hands of one or more students while upon the property of Lowndes High School and during its normal hours of operation.”

The school board’s attorney, Warren Turner, wrote in an email Tuesday that the district had not been served with the lawsuit.

“Therefore, it would be premature and inappropriate to make a public comment on this matter at this time,” he wrote.

US Attorney Michael Moore ordered a federal review of Johnson’s death October 31. No findings have been released nine months later.

The lawsuit by Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson sheds little new light on the case. It mentions that Johnson had been in a fight with another student during a bus trip to a football game a year before his death. The lawsuit also blames school officials for not interviewing classmates “who witnessed incidents of harassment and threats” against Johnson.

The lawsuit doesn’t specifically allege that the same student who fought with Johnson on the bus trip had a role in his death. Lowndes County sheriff’s investigators have said they ruled out that student as a possible suspect after surveillance camera footage from the school showed he never entered the gym around the time Johnson went missing Jan. 10, 2013.

Johnson’s parents are seeking unspecified monetary damages from the school system.

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Re: KENDRICK JOHNSON - 17 yo - Valdosta GA

Post by mom_in_il on Fri Aug 08, 2014 4:12 pm

Man Arrested after Providing LCSO with False Statements on Kendrick Johnson Death

Posted: Thu 3:20 PM, Aug 07, 2014
By: Lowndes County Sheriff's Office Email

Valdosta, GA. -- The Lowndes County Sheriff's Office says that a man was arrested after lying to authorities that he knew of someone who had been present during an admission to the cause of Kendrick Johnson's death.

Authorities say that Dalton Chauncey told police on July 18 of a person who was present and heard conversations in which two individuals made admissions that they were responsible for the death of Kendrick Johnson in January of 2013.

The mentioned individual denied every being present or having heard such conversations. Attempts to identify the two unknown person he claimed held the conversation were unsuccessful.

On July 23, investigators met again with Chauncey and explained to him the inconsistencies of his statement and the lack of ability to verify the conversation with witnesses.

Dalton admitted that he had fabricated the story while at the home of a friends in order to boast. He also clarified that the two persons he vaguely identified were fabricated and do not exist.

He was arrested on one count of providing false statements to law enforcement officers.

Sheriff Chris Prine expressed although the investigation of the death of Kendrick Johnson is closed, he continues to encourage citizens to contact investigators should they have information. Investigators have continued to follow up on all information that has been presented.
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Re: KENDRICK JOHNSON - 17 yo - Valdosta GA

Post by mom_in_il on Wed Dec 03, 2014 4:40 pm

Kendrick Johnson family wants public help

Posted: Nov 18, 2014 9:42 AM CST
Updated: Nov 18, 2014 10:14 AM CST
By Dave Mille

VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - The parents of teenager Kendrick Johnson want the public to come forward with information. With their attorney Chevene King, Jackie and Kenneth Johnson appeared at a morning conference in Valdosta Tuesday.
Kendrick Johnson died under cloudy circumstances in a high school gym in 2013.

At the conference, and in a prepared release, they appealed to the parents of 25 former and current Lowndes High School students, asking for help to uncover how their son died.

The Johnsons said they had learned the school's wrestling team had not left campus for a tournament the afternoon their son went missing, as previously thought.

The parents say that school officials excused 25 Lowndes High students from class approximately four and a half hours before the chartered bus left the school parking lot headed to Macon.

"We are asking you to talk to your children to urge them, if they saw something, to say something," said family lawyer Chevene B. King, Jr. "If they heard something, please have them share it with the U.S. Attorney's Office."

King showed a copy of an attendance record showing that Lowndes High officials released the athletes and others from class starting at approximately 11:30 a.m. on January 10, 2013.

He also referenced a school bus travel log that confirmed 4 p.m. as the departure time of bus driver William P. White, 66, who drove wrestling team coach Spencer Graybeal, his wife, Jennifer, a Lowndes High teacher, two other adults and the 25 students on the trip to Macon.

The document was secured from the school board under the Open Records Act, and suggested the group left nearly three hours after Kendrick Johnson was last seen on school surveillance video at 1:09 p.m. His body was found the next morning.

King said the departure time was important, partially because of misinformation widely reported by the media based on the investigative file.

WALB will have more on the story later today.
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Re: KENDRICK JOHNSON - 17 yo - Valdosta GA

Post by mom_in_il on Wed Dec 03, 2014 4:41 pm

School's attorney refutes latest claims in Kendrick Johnson case

Posted: Nov 19, 2014 2:39 PM CST
Updated: Nov 19, 2014 2:39 PM CST
By Colter Anstaett

The attorney for the Lowndes County School District said Wednesday that the high school strongly denies Kendrick Johnson's family's latest claim related to the death of their son, Kendrick Johnson, whose body was found inside a rolled up gym mat in the Lowndes High School gym on January 11th, 2013.

The Johnson family claims a student on the wrestling team had motive to harm Johnson and, according to a wrestling team travel itinerary the family presented at a press conference Tuesday, was at school when Johnson disappeared from school surveillance video around 1 p.m. on January 10th.

The school district's attorney said the team did not leave at 4 p.m. that day for a tournament in Macon as the form claims, but actually left prior to Johnson going missing. The attorney said the form was submitted in October 2012 by the wrestling coach and the time was changed shortly before January 10th after an official departure time had been coordinated with the bus driver that would be taking the team to Macon.

The Lowndes County Sheriff's Office is evaluating the information presented by the Johnson family on Tuesday, but WALB was told on Wednesday that the sheriff's office was not making any statements to the media at the time regarding the new information.
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Re: KENDRICK JOHNSON - 17 yo - Valdosta GA

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