- (Photo: Twitter)
Kendrick Johnson, 17, was found dead inside a wrestling mat and new information points to foul play. A second autopsy showed that Johnson's organs had been removed from the waist up, including the brain, and his cavity stuffed full of newspaper.
"We have been let down again," Kenneth Johnson, Kendrick's father, told CNN. "When we buried Kendrick, we thought we were burying Kendrick, not half of Kendrick."
The teen was found dead at the Lowndes County High School in January. Authorities believed he had somehow fallen into or gotten trapped inside the wrestling mat and suffocated. They did not suspect foul play, but Johnson's parents hired their own private investigator to double-check the evidence, the scene, and filed for exhumation to conduct a second autopsy, which is when they discovered the newspaper.
"I don't believe this was an accident," Harold Copus, the private investigator, told New York Daily News. "I think this young man met with foul play. If you're running a crime scene, then you're going to say that's potential evidence. Obviously, we're going to check this out and find out who it does belong to."
Copus referred to a sneaker and sweatshirt with red stains on it found a few feet from Johnson's body. Johnson's sneakers were placed inside the mat alongside his body, which was upside down in the mat, and bloodstains found on a wall near the mat, though officials said the blood was not Johnson's.
"I'm not sure at this point who did not return the organs to the body," Dr. Bill Anderson told CNN. "But I know when we got the body, the organs were not there."
Federal investigators are looking into whether or not to re-open the case. Officials have met with the Johnson family and their lawyers, which now includes former Trayvon Martin lawyer Ben Crump, to discuss that possibility.
"This is about getting to the facts and the truth, and we want the Johnson family and the community of Valdosta to have confidence in the process," U.S. attorney Michael Moore said. "I am cognizant of time and we continue to move the process along."