The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office has reopened the case of Kendrick Johnson, a Georgia teen whose body was found rolled up inside a gym mat in 2013. His death has been ruled accidental and was officially closed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in June 2020.
The agency tweeted this statement at the time: “The GBI has received numerous inquiries from the public about our involvement in the 2013 Kendrick Johnson death investigation. This case was investigated by the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI and the Department of Justice.
“Our agency assisted the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office in the case by processing the scene. Our Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an autopsy on Johnson. This investigation is closed. All GBI documents pertaining to the case are available upon request through GBI’s Open Records Unit.”
However, Sheriff Ashley Paulk had not received the documents he had been requesting from the agency to conduct his own thorough investigation. Sending handwritten letters along with Johnson’s father, they were able to acquire the additional evidence, “17 boxes so far that contain hard drives, paperwork, and other materials,” says 11 Alive‘s reporting.
Paulk told First Coast News on Tuesday, “We finally received the documents from the federal government … as far as the investigation, that was the only known documents we were not privy to.
Paulk said further that he cannot discuss the specifics of the documents he obtained, just that they helped him to make the decision to reopen the case.
An initial autopsy said that Johnson died as a result of asphyxiation from trying to get a shoe out of the mat. Two subsequent autopsies concluded that he died as the result of blunt force trauma. For the third autopsy, Johnson’s body was exhumed in 2018.
A family attorney says they believe their son’s case was closed under suspicious circumstances. In May 2019, the family refiled a lawsuit claiming that Johnson’s clothes and internal organs were disposed of in order to cover up his true cause of death.
First Coast News reached out to the family attorney for comment on the reopening of the case, but he issued no comment at this time.