One year after their 17-year-old son’s strange and tragic death, Kendrick Johnson’s parents still have questions about how he died.
Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson will hold a memorial Saturday on the one year anniversary of the day Kendrick’s body was discovered rolled up in a gym mat in his high school gymnasium in Valdosta, Ga. They plan to celebrate his short life–and to draw fresh attention to their now year-long quest to learn what really happened to their son.
The initial investigation by the Sheriff’s Office in Lowndes County ruled his death an accident, concluding from the evidence that he had died from suffocation after reaching for his shoe, falling, and becoming lodged inside the rolled up gym mat in Lowndes County High School. But the Johnsons have never believed that version of the story, instead believing that their son was murdered and that local authorities tried to hide the truth.
They fought to have their son’s body exhumed and examined by a private pathologist who ultimately determined that the cause of death wasn’t positional asphyxia, but blunt force trauma to the neck. The parents also fought for access to the surveillance video recordings from the high school, but were left with more questions when the hundreds of hours of released video including blurry images from one key camera, and missing footage.
In November, federal authorities got involved, announcing they would investigate Johnson’s death.
“First, what was the cause of Mr. Johnson’s death? Second, was Mr. Johnson’s death the result of a crime? Third, if Mr. Johnson’s death was the result of a crime, who committed that crime? Fourth, if a crime was committed, who has the jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute those responsible?” U.S. Attorney Michael Moore said.
Since then, federal investigators have sought more information in the case, including obtaining a subpoena to seize the hard drives of the school’s surveillance system.
This week Moore released a statement assuring the public his office was diligently pursuing the investigation.
“As we approach the anniversary of Kendrick’s death, I am mindful that there is a great deal of interest in the status of our efforts,” he said, according to CNN. “As I have previously stated, in order to protect the integrity of any ongoing investigation by my office, I typically refrain from making any specific comments about the investigation until it is concluded. As we continue our work in this matter, my thoughts and prayers will be with the Johnson family this weekend.”