New lawsuit alleges cover-up in death of Kendrick Johnson

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By: Valdosta Today
July 11, 2017

VALDOSTA – The parents of Kendrick Johnson have filed a third lawsuit alleging a massive conspiracy to conceal the true cause of their son’s death, including a blockbuster claim previously dismissed as a “typo” and claims that ignore recently released evidence.

The lawsuit, filed in Bibb County, comes after the Johnsons' second federal suit was dismissed when their attorney failed to meet several court deadlines. The first lawsuit was voluntarily withdrawn by the Johnsons, and a judge has ordered the parents to pay the legal fees of the numerous individuals, including state and local officials, they named in the suit.

This latest suit contains many of the same allegations as the first two: that a group 45 individuals conspired to murder Kendrick Johnson and to cover up the true cause of his death.

Johnson’s body was found upside down in a vertically stored gym mat at Lowndes High School on January 11, 2013. A state autopsy ruled Johnson’s death accidental, and a federal review of the case ended in 2016 when the Department of Justice announced it had not found “sufficient evidence to support federal criminal charges.”

Last month, video analysis from the Federal Bureau of Investigation cleared Brian Bell, a former LHS student, of involvement in Johnson’s death. Analysis of school surveillance footage concluded Bell and another student not related to Bell “were not in the general vicinity of the old gym where Johnson was last seen.”

Bell’s older brother, Branden, was off campus traveling to a wrestling match at the time Johnson was last seen.

However, the Bell brothers, their father, Rick Bell, and 42 other state and local officials are named in the Johnson’s latest lawsuit.

The suit alleges Rick Bell, who was an FBI agent at the time, personally placed Johnson’s body in the gym mat with the direct help of former Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine and Lowndes County School Superintendent West Taylor.

But in 2015, the Johnson’s lawyer removed that same allegation from a previous complaint, blaming the claim on a “typographical error.”

The judge who ruled the Johnson’s to pay legal fees to many of the same defendants named in their latest suit is expected to rule this month on exactly how much they will be required to pay. The amount sought was initially more than $900,000.

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