Federal prosecutors to review case of Valdosta teen, found dead in school gym

acarlson@ledger-enquirer.comOctober 31, 2013 

The case of Kendrick Johnson — a Valdosta, Ga. teen who was found dead in January in his high school's gym — has taken another turn, after both a Lowndes County judge ordered school surveillance video released to Johnson's parents and federal prosecutors said they will review the case.

Johnson, 17, was found dead in Lowndes High School on Jan. 11, his body stuck in an upright, rolled-up wrestling mat next to gym bleachers.

After his death, both the coroner's report and a state police investigation determined that Johnson asphyxiated after getting stuck in the mat, apparently trying to retrieve a shoe that had fallen into its center.

His parents immediately disputed this and, this summer, Johnson's body was exhumed and the parents hired a private medical examiner, whose report found that the teenager was killed by a "non-accidental" blow to the neck.

School and state officials have stood by their original investigation and insist that Johnson's death was a kind of freak accident.

The family's attorney passed on these findings to local authorities, the Justice Department and the U.S. attorney for Georgia's middle district. That U.S. attorney, Michael Moore, said in a press conference Thursday that federal prosecutors will open a formal review of Johnson's death. His office has been reviewing the case for several months, at the Johnson family's request.

"I will follow the facts wherever they lead," he said. "My objective is to discover the truth."

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