On Wednesday, a federal court dropped a lawsuit filed against all defendants in the 2013 death of a teen who was found dead in a rolled-up gym mat.
WALB reported that the United States Court for the Middle District of Georgia’s Valdosta Division dismissed a lawsuit filed by Kendrick Johnson’s parents because they failed to serve the defendants the summons and complaint within 90 days after filing the complaint.
Kendrick Johnson was found dead in a gym mat at Lowndes High School in January 2013. The late teen’s parents, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, filed the lawsuit in January, claiming their son was the victim of foul play. The Johnsons have filed several lawsuits since their son’s death, winning none of them.
The federal lawsuit listed the following people or entities as defendants:
- Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine
- Lowndes County police Captain Stryde Jones
- Former Lowndes High School students Brian Bell and Branden Bell
- The Bell brothers’ father, ex-FBI agent Richard Bell
- Lowndes County School Superintendent Wesley Taylor
- Lowndes County School District
- Stephen Wesley Owens, an owner of a transport company
- Lowndes County Medical Examiner, Dr. Maryanne Gaffney-Kraft
- Rodney Bryan, a death investigator with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation
Officials concluded that Kendrick Johnson died from “positional asphyxia” as a result of becoming trapped in a rolled-up gym mat. Jacquelyn and Kenneth Johnson have repeatedly accused officials of partaking in a mass coverup that involves the FBI, local police, and the school district.
The family believes Kendrick Johnson was murdered by classmates Brian and Branden Bell, who are the sons of a former FBI agent. However, surveillance footage appears to show the Bells at a different location when the teen died in the gymnasium.
Rejecting officials’ findings, Kendrick Johnson’s parents had two independent autopsies completed in October 2013 and November 2018. Both independent reports stated the teen died of “non-accidental blunt force trauma.”
When Kendrick Johnson’s body was exhumed for the first independent autopsy in 2013, the private pathologist reportedly discovered that every organ from the teen’s pelvis to skull was gone. Further, his body and skull were allegedly stuffed with newspaper.
In an affidavit Kendrick Johnson’s parents provided to WALB in 2018, a witness claimed an acquaintance revealed who killed the high schooler.
The report stated that the culprit was experiencing “roid rage” when they struck Kendrick Johnson in the neck with a 45-pound dumbbell. Someone who witnessed the murder was told to keep quiet or they “would pay for it,” according to the affidavit.
The witness alleged they were told that Kendrick Johnson’s organs were removed and replaced with newspaper to conceal his actual cause of death. The witness also claimed that multiple people conspired to have an hour-and-a-half of the high school surveillance video deleted or corrupted.
The witness names, in addition to the identity of Kendrick Johnson’s alleged killer, were redacted from the news station’s copy of the affidavit.
In a letter to the Johnsons’ attorney, funeral director Antonio Harrington said the 17-year-old’s organs “were destroyed through natural process” due to the position of his body when he died. Harrington also claimed the funeral home never had Kendrick Johnson’s organs, saying they were “discarded by the prosecutor before the body was sent back to Valdosta,” CNN reported.
Despite claims of a coverup, the Department of Justice closed Kendrick Johnson’s case in 2016.
Last month, Kenneth Johnson told the WALB that there are “several things in motion” regarding his son’s case. However, he declined to disclose what those developments entail.
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[Featured image: Kendrick Johnson/Facebook, Family photo]