Chilling new details have emerged in the death of Lowndes County High School wrestler Kendrick Johnson. The 17-year-old was found suffocated inside of a rolled up gym mat in January, and now an independent pathologist has found that most of his organs were replaced with newspaper, upon an exhumation of the body for a second autopsy.
State medical examiners had initially concluded that the three-sport athlete suffocated after getting stuck while reaching for a sneaker. Johnson's parents never fully bought that story, and won a court order for a second autopsy. To their horror, the independent pathologist they'd hired discovered that the brain, heart, lungs, liver and other viscera were missing.
Dr. Bill Anderson, who found that every organ from the skull to pelvis was missing, said, "I'm not sure at this point who did not return the organs to the body. But I know when we got the body, the organs were not there." Dr. Anderson also found that newspaper had been stuffed into the body where the organs should be.
Kendrick's father Kenneth Johnson told CNN, "We have been let down again. When we buried Kendrick, we thought we were burying Kendrick, not half of Kendrick."
Typically, after an autopsy, organs are placed inside plastic bags, and then put back inside the cadaver. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation conducted the first autopsy in January, and the Harrington Funeral Home in Valdosta did the teen's embalming and burial. The GBI has claimed that the organs were put back into the body before it was released to the funeral home. Funeral home director Antonio Harrington told the Johnson's attorney that the organs were missing when they got it. Harrington claimed that the organs "were destroyed through natural process" due to the position of the body upon suffocation, and "discarded by the prosecutor before the body was sent back to Valdosta."
Stuffing a body with newspaper is not "consistent with the standards of care", according to Vernie Fountain, the founder of a Missouri embalming school. Dr. Gregory Schmunk, the president of the National Association of Medical Examiners, added, "I have never heard of this practice."
The second autopsy suggests that Kendrick Johnson took a blow to the right side of his neck that was "consistent with inflicted injury," in contrast to the state's finding of positional asphyxiation.
Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine stated that Johnson's death a closed case, and refused to comment. The U.S. Justice Department announced in September that it wouldn't open a civil rights investigation. Still, federal prosecutors in south Georgia are considering commencing their own investigation. U.S attorney Michael Moore said, "This is about getting to the facts and the truth, and we want the Johnson family and the community of Valdosta to have confidence in the process. I am cognizant of time, and we continue to move the process along."
Kendrick's mother Jacquelyn Johnson commented, "It's unbearable, just about. The only thing that wakes you up in the morning is to just keep pushing."
Image via YouTube.