The parents of a south Georgia teen found dead inside a rolled-up wrestling mat in a high school gym want federal authorities to reopen a case that had been declared an accident, the family's attorney said yesterday. Sheriff's investigators had decided after months of investigation that 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson died in a freak accident after he was found stuck upside down Jan. 11 in the rolled-up mat, which was propped upright behind bleachers at his Valdosta high school; authorities suspected Johnson became trapped while trying to retrieve a shoe that fell into the center of the mat.
A Georgia Bureau of Investigation medical examiner concluded the youth died from positional asphyxia, his body stuck in a position in which he couldn't breathe. But Johnson's parents hired Dr. William R. Anderson to provide a second opinion after a judge agreed in May to exhume the body. Anderson's report, released Aug. 15, said he detected hemorrhaging on the right side of Johnson's neck; he concluded the teen had died from blunt force trauma near his carotid artery and that the fatal blow appeared to be "non-accidental." The Justice Department said in an emailed statement yesterday that upon review "we do not see sufficient indication of a civil rights violation to authorize a civil rights investigation." However, it's working with US Attorney Michael Moore in Macon. Click for more on the case. (Read more Kendrick Johnson stories.)