Kendrick "KJ" Johnson did not die from being beaten up by multiple suspects. He died from one powerful blow—inflicted by one person, while others likely held him down.
In an exclusive interview with EBONY.com, Dr. William Anderson, the Florida pathologist who performed the second autopsy on KJ, reveals, "Kendrick took a fatal blow to his right neck that opened his skin up to his jaw bone. It most likely led to cardiac arrest, which is what I wrote in my report."
That report has since been delivered to Michael J. Moore, the Federal Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, who is reviewing it and may soon open an official investigation into Kendrick Johnson's homicide.
Kendrick Johnson, known as "KJ" to family and friends, was a seventeen-year-old student at Lowndes County High School in Valdosta, Georgia. A good athlete, a good student, a good son and most of all, a good person, KJ disappeared after his fourth block class, January 10, 2013, at about 1PM.
At approximately 9:30 AM the next day, a teacher was conducting his "Life Sports" class in the old gym, when students summoned him to look into a rolled up blue wrestling mat. It was stacked with all the rest on the side of the gym. When the teacher did, he found Kendrick Johnson's partially clothed body inside. He was upside down.
KJ's feet stuck out from one end, his face and upper chest from the other. He wore no clothes from the waist up. His face looked like he had been beaten. A forensic pathologist's autopsy would be able to tell what kind of physical damage he sustained that led to his death. Armed with that knowledge, law enforcement could begin a homicide investigation and answer the questions of how and why he got into that mat.
Those results, with suspects identified, would then be turned over to the State of Georgia for prosecution. But that's not the way it happened.
The first autopsy performed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) claimed, it now appears correctly, that decomposition and his upside down position in the wrestling mat in which he was found, accounted for the distortion of KJ's face.
According to Dr. Anderson, that may be the only thing that is correct.
"When I read the GBI autopsy report, the first thing that popped out was the 'Cause of Death,' 'Positional Asphyxia.'" In such a case, "The respiratory muscles eventually give out and there's a lot of pulmonary edema [fluid)."
Lungs filled with water weigh 800 to 900 grams each.
"But Kendrick's lungs only weighed, 200 or 240 grams. So if Kendrick died from positional asphyxia, how do we explain the absence of pulmonary adema?" Anderson asks.
Anderson relates what he did differently during the second autopsy.
"I dissected areas of the neck, not dissected before [during the GBI autopsy]. That's how I found a neck hemmorhage. There was swelling to the right side of the jaw skin and underneath, which is the neck hemmorhage. The first EMT on the scene also mentioned that area."
Yet there is nothing in the GBI autopsy report, or any other police report, indicating this because as he relates, the dissection was not done. Anderson says that "localized bleeding" at the hemmorage site indicates, "Death was sudden." He concluded that KJ died from "blunt force trauma to the right part of his neck, consistent with inflicted injuries... [and] needs to be investigated as an open homicide investigation."
Dr. Anderson's report directly contradicts both the GBI and Lowndes County versions of how Kendrick died.
Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine first announced that KJ died while reaching down into the mat to retrieve his shoe, that had fallen in. As he reached, he lost his balance and fell into the mat. He couldn't move. Trapped, he suffocated and died.
The GBI backed up that version, but only to a certain point.
As we exclusively reported on August 19, Julie P. Gardner, Assistant Deputy Director (Medical Examiner's Office) of the GBI's Division of Forensic Science, sent a May 2, 2013 email to Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson:
"The official case and manner of death for the following juvenile decedent Kendrick Johnson is as follow [sic]: Immediate Cause: POSITIONAL ASPHYXIA.
"Manner of Death: Accident
"How injury occurred: Slipped and fell upside-down while reading into the central-hole of a vertically stored, rolled-up gym mat and became trapped," Ms. Gardner writes.
If KJ was reading a book, why, then was there was no book recovered anywhere at the scene? That also contradicts Prine's version of events.
Since the county and state had made a decision that KJ's death was accidental and that they would not investigate, the only remedy Kenneth and Jackie Johnson had to get their son's death judged a