Monday, November 4, 2013

U.S. Attorney Will Investigate Case of Georgia Student Found Dead in Gym Wrestling Mat

Michael Moore, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, announced last week his office will investigate the death of 17-year-old high school student Kendrick Johnson, whose body was discovered wrapped in a wrestling mat in a Valdosta, Georgia high school gym on January 11. Georgia authorities concluded that Johnson died by accidental asphyxiation when, while trying to retrieve a shoe, he fell headfirst into a rolled-up wrestling mat and suffocated in the mat overnight. Suspecting foul play, Johnson’s family pressed for a second autopsy, and the teen’s was later exhumed. Although a Florida pathologist said that his examination revealed “unexplained, apparent non-accidental, blunt force trauma,” the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department declined to reopen its investigation into Johnson’s death. U.S. Attorney Moore said Thursday that his office’s review of the evidence warrants a formal review of the case, although he cautioned that his jurisdiction is limited as a federal prosecutor. Moore’s jurisdiction could be criminal or under civil rights statutes. Also on Thursday, Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson said he may open a coroner's inquest into Johnson’s death to determine if Johnson’s death was appropriately classified as accidental.

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