Rewind: A look back at stories that the public may have forgotten about
Kendrick Johnson was a 17 year old high school student at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia. It was more than three years ago on January 11, 2013 when Kendrick was found dead inside of a rolled up gym mat. He was found in an upside-down position (headfirst in the gym mat), and with blood in the vicinity. After a four month long investigation by the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office it was revealed that the death was an accident. An autopsy performed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations identified that Kendrick had died from positional asphyxia.
However, many theories and potential inconsistencies within the case have pointed at a conclusion that could be anything but an accident. Kendrick’s parents, Jackie and Kenneth Johnson, have long maintained that Kendrick was killed.
The high school (from this point on will be referred to as LHS) was composed of two gymnasiums. A ‘new’ gym and an ‘old’ gym. The older gymnasium was used as a storage facility. It was used to store old gym mats (vertically) and it was also a place for students to store their belongings. The mats (standing) were about 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Many students would use these vertical gym mats as storage lockers instead of paying for the school lockers.
Official reports say that Kendrick, who was trying to retrieve a pair of shoes that he shared with a friend, got stuck in the gym mat and died of asphyxiation. This official response was regarded as the cause of death. Kendrick simply went in headfirst to retrieve the shoes and then got stuck. This was the cause of his shoe falling off his body as well as the blood pooling to his head (warning: pictures are graphic!) It wasn’t until more than a day later, after his mother had reported him missing, did a group of girls find Kendrick’s body.
Two autopsies were performed with the first one stating that there was no indication of foul play and that Kendrick had died from asphyxiation whereas the second autopsy (which was conducted under the pressure of the Johnson family) revealed a death that was caused by ‘blunt force.’ (This was due to a cut on the neck of Kendrick’s body.)
The Johnson’s then alleged that the Bell brothers (who also went to LHS) were responsible for the death of their son. The Johnson family filed a 100 million dollar wrongful death lawsuit in 2015 where they named Brian and Branden Bell as well as their former FBI agent father, Rick Bell in the suit. The Johnson family then later named another additional 39 suspects into the case.
Later, all those individuals would ask a judge to have the Johnson family pay for their attorney fees and court related costs after the case was dropped. The case was repackaged and is in court once again.
It was reported that a year before Kendrick’s death the two students, Brian and Kendrick, got into a physical altercation while on a bus ride back from a lost football game. It was then later alleged that the two boys reconciled and then even volunteered to work together on a project.
Alibis from the Bell brothers show that they were not present during the time of Kendrick’s death. Later video footage that was released from the school show Kendrick walking into the gym by himself and then leaving. (The footage does appear to be altered and edited.)
Nonetheless, it was in February of 2015 when FSU decided to rescind their football scholarship to Brian Bell after repeated requests from Johnsons’ supporters. (Brian later went to Akron, Ohio for school.)
An investigation by the Department of Justice in October of 2013 confirmed the County Sheriff’s original conclusion: that Kendrick died from positional asphyxia and that his death was just a freak accident.
Despite the inconsistencies in both the Johnson’s testimonies as well as in the video footage one must wonder where the truthful middle ground lies. Are the grieving parents simply unable to come to terms with a freak accident or is there a vast conspiracy behind the scenes that involves federal agents, local enforcement and also educational institutions?