Body of Georgia Teen, Who Died Under Suspicious Circumstances, Found Stuffed with Newspaper After his Autopsy

Nothing about 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson's death in a school gymnasium adds up.

The story of Kendrick Johnson, the 17-year-old Georgia student whose body was found rolled up inside of a wrestling mat in January, and whose death was deemed an accident, has somehow gotten stranger. Months after his death, his family has had him exhumed, since the official story of death by accidental suffocation did not add up, and found that their son's body was stuffed with newspaper where his vital organs would have been. 

"I'm not sure at this point who did not return the organs to the body," pathologist Bill Anderson told CNN, "but I know when we got the body, the organs were not there."

Organs are, most typically, placed inside of a plastic bag, which is then put back into the body cavity once an autopsy has been completed. According to Dr. Gregory Schmunk, the president of the National Association of Medical Examiners, individual organs are occasionally, should the case dictate, kept out for further testing while the body is sent for burial—though "this would not amount to all of the organs in any circumstance that I can imagine." 

The shocking revelation is but one aspect in an already complex case that has been haunted by missing evidence, contradictory statements, an incorrectly reported time of death, and a host of other factors that have postponed any semblance of closure for the Johnson family.  Officials told a very odd story for how the teen died, that he climed some mats to reach a shoe, then somehow fell and suffocated inside of a roled up mat. Evidence in the gymnasium where Johnson's body was found, including another sneaker spattered with blood and bloodstreaks on the wall, was not collected or scrutinized. Which is why the family decided to have the body exhumed. Now this:

"We have been let down again," Kenneth Johnson, Kendrick's father, told CNN. "When we buried Kendrick. We though we were burying Kendrick, not half of Kendrick."

Harrington Funeral Home which was placed in charge of enbalming and burying the teen's body, said in a letter to the Johnson family that his organs were "discarded before his body was sent to the funeral home. The letter went on to say that the organs "were destroyed through natural process." 

Authorities in Lourdes County, where the Johnson family live, are hesitant to reopen the case, though federal prosecutor Michael Moore told CNN that his office is in the process of considering whether or not to open its own investigation.

"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," Moore told CNN.


Rod Bastanmehr is a freelance writer in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @rodb.

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