Kendrick “KJ” Johnson was found deceased and upside down in a rolled up gym mat of Lownde’s Highschool on January 11th, 2013. The police ruled it an accident, but his family insists he was murdered. What really happened to Kendrick?
Lownde’s Highschool (LHS) is located in Valdosta, Georgia. A grant for construction of the school was approved in 1957, and the initial classes were all-white.
By 1961, the school was integrated with the local “black” school Westside High. SOURCE:
Coming to current day: Valdosta, Georgia has a population of just over 54,000 people, with over 50% of the residents being black, and 41% white. SOURCE:
Valdosta has a long history of racism. Before the Civil War, it was a top cotton exporter
Several lynchings have occurred in Valdosta, with the most notable being the 1916 lynching of a man wrongly accused of killing his boss based on the boss’ wifes’ faulty description. SOURCE:
Back to current times, we will move on to some basic background info on the school’s set up
LHS worked on a “block” schedule, meaning that M/W/F and Tue/Thu classes and start times were different. SOURCE: ?
LHS had two gyms- an “old” gym and a “new” gym. The old gym had several wrestling and cheerleading mats that usually sat horizontally
Because this was the second day back from winter break, the mats had been cleaned and re-stored during the break
The mats were now stored VERTICALLY
On January 10th 2013, at 1:30 pm KJ is seen walking into the “old” gym. KJ is seen smiling and upbeat in the footage right before he enters the gym and no one follows him, and it is another three minutes before someone enters the gym again
This is because this was during a transition period (KJ was heading to his fourth period wrestling class)
The cameras at LHS were activated by light (much like the cells in our eyes hehe can’t not add in eye facts). So they only took photos or turned on if the threshold of light was met
Remember, these cameras were mounted and didn’t move
Items that were further out of the frame of the camera (like the corner of the gym KJ is seen jogging towards) were less likely to elicit a reaction from the camera, as the sensitivity decreases as you move peripherally (much like your retina, again sorry eye facts!)
LHS has six separate surveillance servers that the police department requested information from three of these servers
The video also shows students appearing in frame, as if footage was removed
However, this aligns with the mechanics of the video system. items in the center of the frame had the highest sensitivity—meaning the camera was activated more by things entering and exiting the gym
There was no camera with the views of the mat, so if KJ was off screen and died it makes sense that footage would reactivate 3 minutes later as he wasn’t moving
What occurs after KJ went off screen is contested
It is thought that he reached in one hand first to retrieve the shoe
Here is a diagram showing the arrangement of the mats and how he got in
KJ was found one arm up in the mat
His mother reported him missing at midnight that night, and he was marked absent to his weight lifting class that day
The next morning, a group of students discovered his body while they were filling out forms
Initially, a group of girls saw a sock sticking out of the rolled up mats (this occurred around 10:30 AM on Friday, January 11th 2013)
At first, they thought it was a joke but quickly realized there was someone inside the mat
They called over their coach, who started to pull him down
However, the smell and the presence of vomit and blood quickly informed him that the person inside the mat was deceased and he sent all the students to the “new” gym immediately
Note how swollen his upper body is and the position of his arms, this will be expanded upon on the discussion later
Remember, the mat was upright and behind another row of mats
At around the same time of the discovery, Kendrick’s mother was in the office and printing off flyers for missing persons posters
a video of the scene: WARNING NSFL
These two negative blood tests may be the basis for a common theory I've seen that none of the blood at the scene was his.
This is partially true, the blood and vomit and purge fluid found under Kendrick was confirmed his
All the blood underneath Kendrick’s body was tested to be his, while a bloodied napkin found in the girl’s gym was tested and confirmed to be a female’s DNA (a student later came forward saying she was hit in the face with a flag and got a nosebleed)
On January 14th, an autopsy (the first) was performed by Central South George Crime Lab in Mason, GA
This state of the art forensics lab has been present in George since the early 30’s
This is independent of Valdosta PD just an aside
The autopsy reported the official cause of death as positional asphyxia
This is a condition that occurs when breathing is restricted, causing death
The lack of room for his chest to expand ultimately caused him to die
Positional asphyxia is was killed Eric Garner, George Floyd and several other black folks brutalized by police “holds” that prevented them from properly breathing (positional asphyxia)
Note that this was not the autopsy where his organs weren’t present. His organs were analyzed at this autopsy.
There were no reports of any bruising or broken bones and KJ’s upper torso was extremely congested
This occurs due to the blood rushing to his upper body while in the upside down position (he was upside down for 21 hours!)
This is why he appears so swollen (only on his upper body) when taken out of the mat
Also—blood was found on the shoe underneath him on the laces
The gruesome photos of his face when he was pulled out of the mat showed significant slippage around the neck, leading to the discolored appearance
The day after his body was found, Reverend Floyd Rose of Virginia agreed to represent the family
He even put up his own house as collateral after members of the Johnson family were arrested for civil disobedience for staging a lock in at the Vancosta county courthouse
Eventually, Rose became concerned with the family’s tactics and determined that this was actually an accident. He noted that the coverup would have to span multiple departments, GBI agents and witnesses.
Even Kendrick’s dad admitted in the deposition posted earlier that he had no evidence pointing to the Bell brothers as the culprit
Dr. William Anderson performed the autopsy. This is where it was discovered his body cavity was full of newspaper.
Though in poor taste, it actually isn’t unheard of to place sawdust or some other organic material inside a body to maintain the shape. The funeral home offered the service for free, explaining the cost-cutting measure.
The funeral home was investigated for their handling of Kendrick’s organs. However they were found to have done nothing wrong
They tossed his organs after the autopsy because of the poor state they were in
This is consistent with his dad’s concerns about the temperature of the unit where KJ’s body was stored
Anderson concluded that Kendrick died of blunt force trauma. **note that Anderson had tissue samples of the organs (these are always taken and stored for future histology review) and found nothing worthy**
Also note that this autopsy was not peer reviewed (unlike the original one), because it was performed by a private investigator
As the county was finishing their investigation, the NAACP and SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) conducted their own investigations
However, they came to the same conclusion that this was a terrible accident. The local NAACP president resigned because of their discouragement with how the family was handling the case and alienating supporters.
Brian And Branden Bell were also students at LHS, Brian was on the football team with KJ. Another student, Rick Hall, was named as a suspect by a wrongful death suit filed by the Johnson family was also cleared by surveillance footage.
This was corroborated with witnesses in the classroom and on the bus, the travel logs and the parents of the opposing teams .
It is unclear what Rick Bell’s job was. Despite claims, the Bell family always talked to the police even without attorneys. The cellphones of the girlfriend of Brian Bell, along with his dad and brother’s phones were seized by the FBI but found nothing.
The alleged fight between KJ and Brian actually happened in 2011 (over a year prior to his death) and the two had reconciled, even voluntarily becoming partners on a group project.
It is debatable if they were friends like Bell claims
the family filed a $100 million wrongful death suit, accusing 39 people of murdering KJ (at one point his mom claimed the superintendent put him in the mat personally).
Reverend Rose and the Leigh Touchton (NAACP President) noted that the family refused to view the footage clearing the Bell brothers, despite multiple requests by the school.
A picture is going around of a supposed confession. However, the source is twitter and other social media platforms, no legit court documents have been found.
See this video (TW: Claustrophobia)
One thing I’ve learned in the medical field when dx’ing a patient is that the simplest explanation is generally the correct one.
It would take 100’s of folks across multiple departments for this evidence presented to be false. With a 41% poverty rate, I doubt the Bells had that money or pull and no one has slipped up in the past 7 years since the case opened.
This death had very suspicious circumstances on the surface that can be explained. His family suffered a massive loss and their grief has likely turned toxic.
A wrongful death suit against the school would be the perfect solution for supporters and dissenters alike
The school knew the kids were storing their shoes there and didn’t make efforts to fix it.
Phew and there you have it! All the evidence I've been collecting the past few days since interest in this case has kicked up. I mean no disrespect to the family, and as a black woman I know that black people are long victims at the hands of corrupt officials
However, I don't currently believe that this is one of those cases. Thanks for your time and open mindedness!
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