VALDOSTA, GA – Chilling new photos have surfaced from the scene where a Georgia teen was found dead inside a rolled up wrestling mat at his high school gym in January.
Both state and Lowndes County investigators determined 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson’s death was an accident.
The boy was found on Jan. 11 stuck upside down in an upright mat behind some bleachers at Valdosta High School in south Georgia.
Photos from the scene of the death of Kendrick Johnson show the teen stuck inside a wrestling mat at his south Georgia high school in January.
Authorities said a four-month investigation found the boy was suffocated after getting stuck the day before while trying to retrieve a shoe that had fallen in the center of the mat.
Photos from the scene were first obtained by CNN.
The boy’s parents, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, said he was a victim of foul play and have called for the case to be reopened.
Kenneth Johnson says he believes his son was murdered and that his killing is being covered up.
At the very least, death scene photos broadcast on CNN appeared to point to shoddy police work at the death scene, a former FBI agent said.
“I don’t believe this was an accident. I think this young man met with foul play,” said Harold Copus, now an Atlanta private investigator.
The shoe investigators said Johnson was reaching for when he suffocated. There appears to be blood around it, but not on it.
Photos and a video from the Valdosta gym reviewed by Copus and CNN showed a sneaker and a sweatshirt, both stained red, lying a few yards from Johnson’s body.
Investigators said the red substances were not blood, so neither was collected as evidence.
Copus said the items should have been bagged and tagged.
Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson say crime scene photos, including one showing the shoe Kendrick was said to be reaching for, raise new questions.
“If you’re running a crime scene, then you’re going to say that’s potential evidence. Obviously, we’re going to check this out and find out who does it belong to,” the former G-Man said.
There were also streaks of blood on a nearby wall. Investigators determined the blood wasn’t Johnson’s and wasn’t related to his death.
A second shoe at the scene was not collected as evidence.
Copus said they should have determined whose blood it was and questioned that person.
Some of the photos showed the boy wedged inside the mat, his shoeless feet visible.
Medical examiners said the boy’s head filled with blood, some of which spilled onto the floor beneath him.
Blood stains on a wall near the mat where Johnson was found. Investigators said the stains were old and that the blood was not Johnson’s.
A photo of the black shoe Johnson was reaching for showed blood around the shoe but not on it.
Kenneth Johnson said he suspected the shoe was planted there.
“If he was inside the mat, reaching for that shoe, and the shoe is beneath him, why isn’t that shoe covered with blood?” Johnson said.
Both the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which conducted the autopsy, have stood by their findings that the boy died accidentally.
The U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, Michael J. Moore, said he was looking into the case and would decide whether to open a criminal investigation.