Source: Stephanie Slifer / CBS News
On January 11, 2013, 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson was found dead inside a rolled-up wrestling mat in his Valdosta, Ga. high school gym. Authorities called his death a freak accident, saying he fell head-first into an upright mat and became trapped. The case was closed, but Johnson’s family insists he was killed. A federal prosecutor has announced he is reopening the case.
When a judge agreed to exhume Johnson’s body over the summer, a private pathologist not only determined he died of blunt force trauma to his neck, but also that his organs were missing and his body had been stuffed with newspaper. How and why did this happen? Who is responsible? And could the strange state of the body affect further investigation of Johnson’s death? It turns out, the answers to these questions are far from clear.
Despite some media reports that only two entities had custody of Kendrick’s body after his death, CBS News’ Crimesider has confirmed at least four entities – the Valdosta-Lowndes Regional Crime Laboratory, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), a third-party transport company, and the Harrington Funeral Home – handled the teen’s body.
On Jan. 11, the day the body was found, Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson contacted Steve Owens from Owens Transport Company to conduct the removal and transport of Johnson’s body to the Valdosta-Lowndes Regional Crime Laboratory, according to recently unsealed files pertaining to the investigation. The body would be stored in a cooler there until the GBI was ready to receive it to conduct the autopsy.
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