Kendrick Johnson Gym Mat Death

Hell. Yes. A federal prosecutor is reopening the investigation into the death of Kendrick Johnson, the teenager who was found dead inside a rolled-up wrestling mat in his Georgia high school gym.

Michael Moore, The U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, announced he’ll be conducting a “formal review” of KJ’s death, with the FBI helping him get to the bottom of how, exactly, the beautiful, multi-sport athlete ended up dead and so incredibly disfigured that when they found his body some 23 hours after he went missing, he looked like Emmett Till 2.0.

Moore said he reopened the case after reviewing police documents and interviewing specific people involved in the initial investigation, which ended with Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine insisting KJ’s death was nothing more than a freak accident caused when he fell into and got stuck upside down in a 700-lb, 7”-tall gym mat he may have reached into to retrieve a shoe. Prine made that pronouncement not even a day after KJ’s body was found at his Valdosta, Ga., school, sans an autopsy and coroner report.

KJ’s family refused to cosign Prine’s explanation, arguing that despite what his first autopsy claimed, their child’s disfigurement told a totally different story—one that couldn’t have been determined as quickly and neatly as Prine would have had everyone think. Indeed, a second autopsy, that one conducted on behalf of the family by an independent pathologist, found that KJ died as a result of “unexplained, apparent non-accidental, blunt force trauma.”

News that federal prosecutors are on the case in KJ’s death came last Thursday, just one day after a South Georgia judge ordered authorities to release all surveillance video in and outside the gym where KJ’s body was found. Up until that court order, county and state investigators refused to hand over the video, which includes footage from four cameras set up in the gym, including one that was aimed at the corner where KJ’s body was found.

News of the federal investigation and access to the videotapes is the first bit of right for KJ’s parents, who not only lost their son but are being forced to fight for the simple right to have his shocking death brought to justice.  Just last month, the Johnsons found out that their son’s body and skull had been stuffed with newspaper before burial, adding yet another horrific layer to KJ’s death.

Benjamin Crump, the lawyer representing KJ’s family, told CBS News that the explanation officials initially gave for the teen’s death “defies all logic, the rules of science and common sense.” He added: “What’s more likely is that someone rolled him up in that mat.” Crump, who represented Trayvon Martin’s family, also called the court decision to release surveillance video and other documents in KJ’s case a “major victory,” and said he expects that video will show who was in the gym with KJ.

“It’s really about trying to show two things. Number one, that Kendrick did not crawl into that wrestling mat and get stuck as the sheriff concluded. … And number two, we want to find out who went in and out of that gym in that 24 hour period” between the time the teen went missing and the time his body was found.

Indeed, we pray that these are the first steps to finding out what really happened to KJ and bringing whoever may have been involved in his death to justice—for the sake of the Johnsons and the beautiful KJ.

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The Valdosta-Lowndes County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference is offering, through an anonymous donor, a $10,000 reward for information that could help reveal how KJ died. SCLC officials ask that anyone with info call 229-444-1938; information given in the case will be passed on to the Johnson Family’s attorneys and to U.S. Attorney Michael Moore. If no one is eligible for the reward within 90 days, the money will be returned to the donor.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

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