Two sheriffs officers cordon off an area with yellow caution tape

The tragic death of a Georgia teen is being reinvestigated eight years later. The suspicious death of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson, who was found dead inside a rolled-up gym mat at his high school, was initially ruled accidental. But now, after years of outcry, the case has finally been reopened. 

A Young Man With A Love For Basketball

Kendrick Johnson’s love for sports was well known in his family, so when the 17-year-old didn’t return home on January 10, 2013, his mom was initially unworried. It wasn’t uncommon for Kendrick to play basketball after school, but as the night wore on and he didn’t return, his mother, Jacquelyn, started making calls. First, she contacted Kendrick’s father to see if he’d heard from his son before reaching out to other friends and family members. 

When everyone reported back that they hadn’t seen him, she contacted the police and filed a missing persons report. The very next morning, Jacquelyn visited Kendrick’s school to inform them he was missing and to see if he’d shown up there. 

A Mother’s Tragic Intuition

“The counselor hadn’t heard,” Jacquelyn remembered. “But then the phone rang. A voice was telling her they just found a body in the gym.” She added, “I’m breaking into pieces because I know it’s my child.” Confirmation of Jacquelyn’s terrible feeling soon came. Some students discovered Kendrick’s sock-covered feet sticking out from the top of a rolled-up wrestling mat standing upright in the corner of the school gym. 

An initial investigation into Kendrick’s tragic death, as well as an autopsy, ruled his death was accidental, theorizing that he’d fallen into the mat’s opening while possibly trying to retrieve a shoe. He’d become stuck and suffocated, the authorities suggested. 

New Development In The Case

It’s been eight years since Kendrick Johnson’s death. After multiple reviews by the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia and the U.S. Department of Justice, not to mention increasing pressure from the public, the case has been reopened. Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk said in a statement, “I’m going to try and dispel all the rumors and accusations.” He added, “I just want the truth. That’s all I want.” 

The investigation into Kendrick’s death is still ongoing. Hopefully the results, no matter what they are, bring some peace to his family, who are still clearly grieving the death of a young man taken from them far too early. 

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