When Kendrick Johnson was found dead in a rolled up gym mat in January, his death was ruled to be accidental despite the puzzling circumstances in which he was discovered.
Kendrick Johnson was just 17 when he died, and his death was subsequently declared to have been a misadventure explained by medical examiners as a result of having been trapped in the mats.
Johnson’s family was immediately skeptical of the claim when the teen’s body was found a day after he was reported missing, and a new autopsy after the teenager was exhumed seems to validate their worrisome suspicions.
When Johnson’s death was ruled accidental, dad Kenneth Johnson objected, telling a local news station:
“I want to express how did my son go missing during school hours in broad daylight? We know our son was murdered while he was at Lowndes High School. We do know that.”
Aunt Anastasia Roe cited several initial inconsistencies that seemed to point to a more sinister cause of death for Kendrick Johnson, saying at the time:
“First we heard he was on the floor near the mat, then we hear he was wrapped in the mat. It’s suspicious.”
Johnson’s family pushed for a second autopsy, and the findings after the exhumation directly contradicted the initial ruling — noting that the teenager died due to “unexplained, apparent non-accidental, blunt force trauma,” entirely inconsistent with the original claim that there were “no signs of blunt force trauma on Johnson’s face or body” and “no significant injuries” during the first autopsy. (Graphic images allegedly from Kendrick Johnson’s autopsy have leaked to the internet following the controversy.)
CNN reports that Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson commented on the possibility of a coroner’s inquest into Kendrick Johnson’s passing, saying:
“Coroner’s inquests are not something you do every day. I cannot tell you the last time a coroner’s inquest was done in this office… I want to do the right thing by the people and the county and all concerned; I’m just not sure we have enough information. I’m not about to refute anybody’s findings because I’m not a doctor.”
The second autopsy of Kendrick Johnson and the costs of exhumation were paid by his family. It’s not currently clear what action if any law enforcement officials in Lowndes County will take in light of the findings.