Teenager Kendrick Johnson found dead in high school gym mat; body stuffed with newspaper and organs removed
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THE parents of a teenage student found dead and rolled up in a gym mat at a US high school believe their son met with foul play, and were shocked to discover he had been buried with organs missing and his body stuffed with newspaper.
Kendrick Johnson, 17, was found dead at Lowndes County High School in Valdosta, Georgia on January 11, CNN reports.
His death was at first ruled an accident, after an autopsy determined the athletic teenager had suffocated after becoming trapped in the gym mat while reaching for a sneaker.
However, Kendrick’s grieving parents Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson are pushing for answers, and suspect their son was murdered.
Adding to their distress was the discovery that their son’s organs had been removed and his body stuffed with newspaper before burial.
“Like a garbage can insides his body”, Mrs Johnson told CNN. "It's unbelievable."
Determined to get to the truth, the Johnsons hired a private pathologist, who found their son died not from suffocation, but from “unexplained, apparent non-accidental, blunt force trauma”.
In a bizarre twist, the pathologist also discovered all of Kendrick’s internal organs from his skull to pelvis were missing, and that his body and skull had been had been stuffed with newspaper before burial.
"We have been let down again," father Kenneth Johnson told CNN. “When we buried Kendrick, we thought we were burying Kendrick, not half of Kendrick.”
State medical officials say the organs were intact when Kendrick’s body was given to the funeral home. However, the funeral home says the never received the organs and believes they were destroyed “through natural process” due to the position of the body at the time of death and then disposed of during the autopsy.
The family’s lawyers are now calling on authorities to release gym surveillance video they believe will help uncover the truth about how their son died.
"There is one eyewitness that we know is available. It is the video recordings made from surveillance cameras there in the gymnasium where the body was found,” said lawyer Chevene B King Jr. The family have also hired lawyer Benjamin Crump, who represented the family of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
“We will solve this murder mystery. We will get to the truth,” said Mr Crump.
Mrs Johnson said the pain of her son’s death was “unbearable, just about."
"The only thing that wakes you up in the morning is to just keep pushing,” she said.