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Valdosta family pushes for "higher power" to investigate son's death

10:05 PM, Jun 17, 2013   |    comments
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VALDOSTA, Ga. -- Kendrick Johnson was a three sport athlete who was found dead in January at a high school gym inside a gym mat. His death, and the circumstances surrounding it, has the South Georgia city under a microscope.  

The Lowndes High sophomore, according to investigators, was attempting to retrieve his shoes inside the mat and suffocated. 

Last week, five months after his death, the teen's body was exhumed so his family could get another opinion on the cause of death.

"We want justice. We need someone with a higher power to come here and give us a full and through investigation," said Kenneth Johnson.

Kenneth, along with his wife Jacquelyn, are not buying the explanation offered by the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office.

The teen according to investigators was in the gym and went head first inside the vertical mat to retrieve his shoes.  The 17-year-old was missing for a day before being discovered.

The family's attorney, Chevene King, said the evidence does not support the cause of death.

"He is 19 inches in the shoulders.  Kendrick 19 inches? Yes. According to the investigators they say the width of this hole at its widest point, 14 inches," said King during a recent interview with First Coast News near where the Johnson family holds a peaceful protest most day near the courthouse.

"I believe it was a homicide for sure. A homicide involves somebody else. Yes," said King when asked if thought the teen might have been murdered.

Lt. Stride Jones speaking for the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office says the department stands by its investigation.

"We examined all the alternatives that were presented to us and the only one that fits the physical evidence and the forensic evidence and the testimonial evidence we received is that it was an accident," said Jones.

The Johnson family contends that Kendrick has a bruised jaw that was not noted in the first autopsy.  It is just one of many questions they have about the thoroughness of the investigation.

The sheriff's office says more than 100 people were interviewed in the investigation that wrapped up in May.

The second autopsy -- which is being performed in Orlando according to the family -- could be completed this week.

First Coast News

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