GBI Autopsy: Johnson Death Ruled Accidental

| May 2, 2013

Kendrick Johnson - Medical - Autopsy ReportValdosta, GA- The following is a press release from the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office.

This morning Sheriff Prine, investigators from the Sheriff’s Office, Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson and District Attorney J. David Miller and all met and participated in a conference call with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. In addition of the persons from Lowndes County, the call was attended by Doctor Maryanne Gaffney-Kraft, the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy of Kendrick Johnson in January, George Herring, Deputy Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation-Division of Forensic Sciences, Doctor Kris Sperry, Chief Medical Examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and representatives from the Forensic Biology section of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. During this call, the findings of recent forensic testing and the autopsy were relayed. Based on the findings of the investigation, physical evidence, forensic sciences and the autopsy, the death of Kendrick Johnson has been ruled as an
accident as a result of positional asphyxia.

Although not previously released, Sheriff Prine stated that this investigation was very extensive and included the completion of multiple forensic tests, including DNA samples collected from the scene and the interview of over one hundred {100} persons, including students, teachers and other people who were identified as the investigation progressed. Nothing learned during the investigation has indicated anything other than this was a tragic accident.

Sheriff Prine continued to express his sorrow for the family and hopes that with the release of the investigative findings, including the medical findings, the family can find the answers they seek and begin the healing process.

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32 Comments on "GBI Autopsy: Johnson Death Ruled Accidental"

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  1. Anika Perry says:

    It may have been ruled accidental based on positional asphyxia, but it still doesn’t explain how he got in the mat in the first place. This case was mishandled by Sheriff Prine from the beginning. In addition, with his past employment being with the GBI and totally excluding Coroner Watson from the investigation, I would definitely get a second opinion if I were the family. There are some questions that need to be answered. I will list them below.

    1. How did he get in the mat to even have positional asphyxia? To be after a shoe (as Sheriff Prine stated) is ludicrous.
    2. Where is the video showing who went in the gym with him? If for instance 3 went in and 2 came out, I smell something fish.
    3. Why was the scene compromised? The body was moved before the coroner even got there.
    4. Lastly, could someone please explain how positional asphyxia has his post mortem face in the condition that it was?

    • Brian Devuska says:

      Yes, there will always be questions. How he got in there, why he got in there, and who put him(if anyone did), may never be answered. That is at the fault of the school. They don’t have cameras in that gym. A student could have compromised it. You can’t blame the authorities for everything.
      He could look the way he did because of the heat + all of his blood rushing to his head + being “smushed” in the mats. There is so much to it that we will never know. This is true for many cases as such, and it is depressing.

    • dustin carter says:

      1. there is actually a thing at Lowndes wear boys borrow shoes and they were keeping a pair up there. 2 i dont know 3 i dont know and 4. the face was actually showing positional asphyxia. the large amounts of swelling are consistent with asphyxiation and hanging upside down after death. i know it looks like a beating at first glance, but it is consistent with the coroners report.

    • ciana baltimore says:

      that is so true and this will be swept under the rug just to cover up a lynching that happened in this south georgia town. it is so sad and i hope the kids that did it will burn in hell for what they did.

    • Anonymous says:

      It makes perfect sense that he went in after a shoe. Personally, if I dropped my shoe in a mat I would have tried to get it. Also, in response to your comment about the video, are you sure there was even one or are you just saying what you’ve heard through rumors? If there was a video, I’m sure they have thoroughly questioned the other two individuals. If there was any chance that it wasn’t an accident, the Sheriff’s office wouldn’t have indicated that it was an accident. As to #4 on your list, once a person dies, the body doesn’t circulate blood anymore, which in Kendrick’s case, means that all of his blood would have ran down into his upper body, causing the discoloration and swelling. If his death has been ruled accidental by both the Sheriff’s office and the GBI, they must know what they are talking about.

    • Lisa James says:


    • Skip says:

      1. He was alone.. This question may never be answered… The suggestion came from the investigators that worked this case.. Not Sheriff Prine personally.. If you have a problem with this conclusion you have a problem with the entire department.. Not just the sheriff..

      2. If you haven’t seen the video how do you know it even exists or what the contents are??? Speculation…
      3. We’re you there?? How do you know it was compromised??
      4. Positional Axphyxia was the cause of death. The condition of his face was the result of Livor Mortis and pooling of the blood in the lower part of his body..

      Here is a question for you… Do you think that if he was beaten or murdered that the GBI autopsy would ignore the obvious signs of blunt force trauma and come to the same conclusion as the Sheriffs investigation???

      And one other thing…. If the family believes that KJ was murdered, why don’t they have a private autopsy done instead of stirring up so much racial tension and throwing such incendiary accusations based on speculation and emotion rather than seeking the truth that comes from a responsible professional investigation…

    • GladtobeGone says:

      The coroner was excluded from the investigation because he is not qualified to investigate. That is why the state had to perform the autopsy, because the coroner can only state whether someone is dead or alive and transport the body, that is it. The Lowndes coroner has 0 experience in forensics or the medical field.

    • Joe Doe says:

      I’m not making excuses but I can tell you why they didn’t call the coroner first. It is widely known around law enforcement that Coroner Watson is a moron. The coroner is an elected official and our coroner has NO MEDICAL BACKGROUND OR EDUCATION. He has been screwing up things for years. You would have a better chance calling a random person off the street. They would have as much knowledge as our coroner.

  2. It's OVER says:

    It is over and done. It has been ruled an accident. Maybe if he had not been breaking the law by being in there he would still be here today. Maybe if the family that claims to care so much about him and cared where he was that night he would be here today.

    • Troll killer says:

      It amazes me to read this trash, its so easy for you to believe the police, sheriff and the GBI because you have no idea what it feels like to be black. I don’t look for hand outs , I don’t live off the government so please don’t confuse me with the lazy ones as you people like to call them. Black people have every right not trust these people because they have a lot to lose by telling the truth. And if his family members are awarded money in a settlement after this some heads are going to role. And that’s what its all about “MONEY” If you want to believe this was a accident in a gym full of kids and nobody knows nothing, then you go right on and believe, but we ain’t having it.

  3. sharon bivins says:

    this is a coverup and we all know it.if he fell in the mat head first your natural instinct will tell you to try to push or roll or something to try and get out not just stay in it until you cant breath anymore, oh i forgot i guess when he fell in he knock himself out too.Lowdnes County quit lying.

  4. Jacob Fox says:

    All his family is doing is presenting a case based on race to get what they want. This is not about justice this about them wanting to sue and get money.

    • Troll killer says:

      You have a good point here… But have you considered this to be the same case when it comes to the Sheriff & the GBI ??? Have you considered that the powers that be may have realised that they are at fault and are doing what ever they have to to cover this up??? I mean let’s face it, we are in the south, and Black people lives aren’t as important as whites. You know how many young black women go missing on a daily basis??? I know!!! You have no idea because it doesn’t make the News we have to put these story’s on social networks to get it out there our selves. If your constantly slapping some one in the face when you come into contact with them, you cant expect them not to flinch when you come with your arms extended as if you want a hug. If he was white would you feel the same??? I seriously doubt it..

  5. NeldaRyan says:

    1. When did Prine work for the GBI?

    2. Do you know what a face looks like after a person has been upside down for an extended period of time?

    It would be better if we only speak of what we know to be factual.

  6. Jimmy Williams says:

    1.) shoe swapping is very common among kids
    2.) why would a gym closet have cameras?
    3.) probably to check and see if he was alive you stupid idiot.
    4.) an adult male has approximately 5 liters of blood. While the body is upside down and the heart has stopped circulating the blood it will drain down to the head and cause extreme swelling and distortion. Eventually coming out of orifices in the head.

    This is a very tragic occurrence but it was a tragi accident.

    • Troll killer says:

      Why not just unroll the mat??? Why would someone try to squeeze in such a small hole, where not talking about a small child here, how do we know that he wasn’t rolled up in there or stuffed in by his friends as they played a trick on him.. I’ve played plenty of sick dangerous jokes on my friends as a teen, its what young men do, but to say this a accident is a slap in the face point blank.

  7. peace says:

    ”could someone please explain how positional asphyxia has his post mortem face in the condition that it was?”

    Apparently as someone told me (that was not involved in this case) that from being upside down so long ‘pooling of body fluids’ is what it looked like to him…and that is most likely what caused the puffy face.
    Believe me, I thought the same thing when I saw his face as you did.

    Think about it. Since you want more details…hanging like that upside down that long would indeed do that.

  8. Confused says:

    It’s mighty strange that once this story went completely national, the long awaited results decided to surface. It’s apparent that this was not handled correctly and these “so called” people that were being interviewed were held under wraps. Furthermore, if all of this was going on, shouldn’t the family have been aware of this. I don’t buy it! This result is clearly and utterly preposterous!

  9. Teresa says:

    I am glad to hear that the autopsy results have confirmed an accidental death. The death of Kendrick is tragic, but I would hate to think there was such hatred and animosity in our city/county and school as to lead to the death of an innocent teen while on school grounds. I applaud all of the officers, workers, and departments involved in this case. No matter who the person is, this was no easy task and is certainly close to the hearts of all. Anyone who is a loving parent, can only imagine how horrible this event is/was. The family will NEVER be the same. I can understand the family needing to place blame on someone for the loss of their son; however, I hope and pray they will soon be on their way to healing.

  10. dk folsom says:

    First, I wish to express my sympathy to the family of this young man.

    Second, Sheriff Chris Prine’s past employment was with the Georgia State Patrol.

    Third, its ruled an accident, for now, if new evidence comes into play then I’m sure all law enforcement involved will react diligently.

    Fourth, even tho its ruled an accident doesn’t mean the investigation has to stop….a month, a year or even a decade from now, someone may step forward and offer insight as to why he was in the mat and what led to him being there.

    May God Bless him and his family.

  11. Jerome cockrell says:

    Dont forget u are still talking about the state of ga .. Im a 29 yr old black male and know that jim crow is still in exsitance around that area. Some wont

  12. InterestedParty says:

    I have a sincere question for anyone who is educated in the medical field enough to be able to give me an intelligent answer. I understand that the blood pooled to his head (whether he was dead before or after ending up in the mat)and I also understand that either one would cause facial swelling consistent with that seen in the post-mortem photo. What I am having trouble understanding is why the skin is peeling away in areas (is this decomposition, a result of swelling pressure, or a result of facial trauma) OR why there appears to be a fold or very deep and large indention in his forehead. Can someone please explain to me how those are present as a normal and natural result of falling into a mat, becoming trapped, and suffocating?

    • InterestedParty says:

      Also, the grandfather stated that when he was allowed to identify the body via a facial image that Kendrick’s teeth were moved and protruding–very unlike his orthodontically corrected teeth were prior to his death. Is it true that his teeth were damaged and if so, how can that be explained by just falling into the mat and suffocating?

    • Kryssa says:

      Because it’s likely the photo you’re referencing is from after his body was exhumed. There is a photo circulating of his face *at the scene* of the “accident”. In the scene photo, there is no slippage, nor is there an indentation.
      Doesn’t mean his death was normal or natural – not by any stretch. It still looks highly suspicious.
      (Google “Kendrick Johnson Crime Scene” then click on images. Scroll down until you find the side by side comparison photos. Not sure what anyone else was trying to prove with those pics – but it’s obvious that the b&w photo is after exhumation because you can see where he’s begun to “decompose” more rapidly.)

  13. curious minds says:

    My question is , if it is not about race why is there so many racial comments, and the main question I have is what if the sheriff was an African American? Would you all still blame the officials ? I followed this story because I do feel sorry for the parents losing their child, but once it got out of hand, and started being a racial issue, I no longer follow.

    • Kryssa says:

      Obviously, you do.
      But if you’ve stopped since this comment, shame on you. I pray that if a member of your family dies under suspicious circumstances, people don’t stop caring because they don’t like the direction or the comments you make.

  14. Thomas says:

    The fact that people are still living in the 1960s and bringing race into this is just plain sad. You know how you quit racism in this country don’t talk about it . I understand the past of this country and understand all the suffering that happened in the early 1900s. My generation feels like we fall subject that we are just as racist as our past generations. I am a young white male that went to valdosta high school. We treated everyone as if they were family. Maybe this city should listen to Accidental Racist by Brad paisley ( featuring L.L. Cool J) and understand where my generation is coming from. I am a 22 year old and I don’t appreciate the crap that we catch about racism in this city.

    • Kryssa says:

      No, you don’t “fix” something by ignoring it.

      Obviously you DON’T understand the past or their suffering – or why people like YOU keep the fires burning. You want “them” to understand where you’re coming from because you *think* you understand where they’re coming from. You are a 22 yr. old white kid who endures none of the same discrimination and ignorance that a 22 yr. old black kid does (it’s not in the past, Skippy). You can no more understand or empathize with him than he could with your entitled, non-discriminatory life.

  15. SharronZW says:

    I read a CNN article (date was from September i believe) reporting that the results of an independent autopsy performed after Kendrick’s body had been exhumed, found “unexplained blunt force trauma” to the young man’s face.

    I do not know all of the details of this case, however, the information I have read and the photos I saw left me with a lot of questions….and a sick feeling that this situation is not so ‘cut & dry’.

    I teach high school kids in Texas, and I am fully aware that the brand/style of shoes a kid wears are a teenage “status quo”, but I just don’t see ANY kid taking that kind of risk BY HIMSELF for one damn shoe. Now I can see one kid telling the another, “Hold my feet & I’ll grab the shoe” ….I would also suspect that anyone with a brain stem would FIRST try to fish the shoe out with some kind of rigged up device (which would be probably lying near the scene of the “incident) OR simply knock the matt over and pick the shoe up. It does not seem likely that a kid would do a solo nosedive into a very long and vertical rolled up matt for that shoe….and if he did, there would be something significant about it that his buddies would be able to confirm and legitimize Kendrick’s motivation (like rumor of $ or drugs etc. inside the shoe)

    Maybe I’m way off here, but I kind of half think that Kendrick Johnson was not topping the list of “Teachers’ favorites” and probably had some experience with the police….His tragic death almost seems like it has been handled with a “he got what he deserved” type of investigation. I pray this is not the case, but we all know this kind of thing has certainly happened before..

    • Kryssa says:

      Ho – lee – crap.
      You teach high school? I hope you don’t make those same assumptions with your students.

      You were doing OK (not great, but OK) right up until your last paragraph where, (apparently) because he’s black, you “assumed” he’d had run-ins with the police and was not well liked (and perhaps was using/selling drugs). smdh.

      He was a good kid. There is no evidence to suggest anything else. No drugs, no arrests, going to school like he was supposed to – and getting killed there and disrespected by no authority seeing it for what it is – murder. Whether intentional or manslaughter, someone killed him and tried to hide it.


    I am interested in knowing who found his body and how? I have read rticle after article and I have yet to read this. Also the school should be held liable to some extent.. this young man was last seen in video footage at approximately 1 pm.. what happened when he didn’t report to his other classes? Was there no system in place to track the whereabouts of students from class to class. By law once a student steps foot on campus the school is responsible for ensuring safety and knowing the whereabouts of all students until school is officially dismissed. A search or phone call home should have happen long before the end of school or his body being found the next day. .