17-year-old Kendrick Johnson was found dead on Jan. 11, 2013, in a vertical rolled-up mat inside his high school gym.
LOWNDES COUNTY, Ga. — Nine years after a Georgia teen’s body was found in a rolled-up gym mat authorities are now ruling his death accidental.
Investigators with the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office reopened the Kendrick Johnson case 10 months ago following rumors of how the teen may have died.
The 17-year-old was found dead on Jan. 11, 2013, in a vertical rolled-up mat inside his high school gym. He was last seen alive the day prior, records show. Johnson’s family has consistently said foul play was involved in their son’s death.
A sheriff’s office synopsis of the investigation indicates there’s no evidence that’s the case.
The synopsis covers evidence and reports from nine investigative agencies, federal grand jury testimonies and autopsies.
Investigators said the Valdosta teen tried to reach into the rolled-up gym mat to grab his shoes. Several autopsies ruled his death accidental by asphyxiation, records show.
Last year, an audiotape also surfaced appearing to confess to the murder of Johnson. Sherrif’s office records debunked the call, saying it was a hoax. The tape was sold to the Johnson family for $1,000.
The sheriff’s office report states several witnesses testified that it was practice for students to leave shoes within the gym mats. Records also reveal that Johnson’s body did not show extreme signs of blunt force trauma. Autopsies did note signs of suffocation.
The teen’s death was previously ruled accidental in May 2013.