In a shocking update in the Kendrick Johnson (pictured) case, his body was stuffed with newspaper before his burial, according to CNN.
“We have been let down again,” said Kenneth Johnson, his father. “When we buried Kendrick, we thought we were burying Kendrick, not half of Kendrick.”
Watch a CNN report about the discovery here:
After Johnson’s body was found in an upright, rolled up wrestling mat at Georgia’s Valdosta High School in January, state medical examiners ruled his death accidental. Johnson’s family didn’t accept the story, hiring an independent examiner to perform a second autopsy. That one suggested Johnson died of blunt force trauma to the head.
In an autopsy, organs are removed and examined before being returned to the body for burial. However, when Dr. Bill Anderson, the independent pathologist who performed Johnson’s second autopsy, opened the teenager up, he found his brain, heart, lungs, liver and other organs missing.
“I’m not sure at this point who did not return the organs to the body,” Anderson said. “But I know when we got the body, the organs were not there.”
According to CNN’s report, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation — which performed the first autopsy — and the Harrington Funeral Home –which embalmed and buried Johnson — both opened his body.
GBI Spokeswoman Sherry Lang denied the Bureau didn’t return the organs, saying, “The organs were placed in Johnson’s body, the body was closed, then the body was released to the funeral home.” The funeral home did not comment on the story.
But the funeral home’s owner, Antonio Harrington, wrote a letter to the Johnson family’s attorney saying they never received the teen’s organs with his body. He said that because of Johnson’s upright position at the time of death, his organs “were destroyed through natural process,” and were “discarded by the prosecutor before the body was sent back to Valdosta.” Prosecutors often dissect bodies for pathological examination.
However, the newspaper stuffing raised eyebrows among experts in forensic pathology. Vernie Fountain, founder of an embalming school in Missouri, said that it is”not consistent with the standards of care.” National Association Of Medical Examiners President Gregory Schmunk said, “I have never heard of this practice.”
During an autopsy, organs are usually placed in a plastic bag. That bag is then placed into the body after the autopsy. Though some organs may be kept for additional testing, Johnson’s case of having all his removed isn’t the norm, per Schmunk.
“This would not amount to all of the organs in any circumstance that I can imagine.” he added.
The revelation comes a day after photos surfaced of Johnson’s body and the crime scene. One shows his shoeless legs (pictured above) trapped in the mat.
Another picture brings the accidental claim into question. It shows Johnson’s face bloated with pooled blood, some of which had poured out of his body and onto his dreadlocks and the floor.
Though Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine has refused to comment on Johnson’s case, calling it closed, federal prosecutors have met with his family’s reps and are considering opening their own investigation.
“This is about getting to the facts and the truth, and we want the Johnson family and the community of Valdosta to have confidence in the process,”said Michael Moore, a U.S. Attorney who represents Valdosta.
“I am cognizant of time, and we continue to move the process along.”
The Johnson family has hired Attorney Benjamin Crump, legal counsel for the family of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin, to get to the bottom of the case, reports the Associated Press.
“This is a real-life murder mystery where these parents sent their child to school with a book bag and he was returned to them in a body bag,” Crump said in a phone interview. “They brought me in to make sure this is not able to be swept under the rug in small-town Georgia and they never get justice for their child.”