Lowndes Sheriff Says Email Confession In Kendrick Johnson Death Is 'Incorrect'

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By Winnie Wright
March 20, 2014

Valdosta, Ga. -- According to Lt. Stryde Jones with the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office, they received an anonymous tip via email that named numerous people who confessed to knowing who killed Kendrick Johnson and who may have been involved.

LCSO has investigated the sender and persons named after issuing a subpoena to Mediacom requesting information on the sender.

According to Lt. Stryde Jones with the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office, they received an anonymous tip via email that named names of people who confessed to knowing who killed Kendrick Johnson and who may have been involved.

LCSO has investigated the sender and persons named after issuing a subpoena to Mediacom requesting information on the sender.

They say they interviewed all parties and have decided the information in the tip was incorrect.

There are still no suspects in the death of Kendrick Johnson at Lowndes High School in January of 2013.

News Release: CNN
Updated: March 19, 2014, 6pm

Atlanta (CNN) -- A Lowndes County, Georgia, assistant district attorney has ordered a communications company to hand over Internet records after investigators received an anonymous e-mail claiming an ex-schoolmate reportedly confessed to killing Kendrick Johnson.

CNN obtained the e-mail and the subpoena on Monday, in response to a state Open Records Act request submitted to the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office.

The anonymous e-mail tip is dated January 27. The sender of the e-mail does not suggest he or she personally witnessed a confession; instead, the sender claims to have been told information by somebody who purportedly was aware of a confession in the 2013 death by one of the people implicated in the e-mail.

Johnson's body was found in a rolled-up mat in the Lowndes High School gymnasium on January 11, 2013. Investigators with the sheriff's office ruled his death accidental, concluding that Johnson climbed into the center of the gym mat to reach for a shoe and got stuck.

According to an incident report provided to CNN by the sheriff's office, investigators interviewed two of four students identified by name in the anonymous e-mail on January 28.

Both students acknowledged they knew the 17-year-old Johnson but denied any involvement in his death.

The incident report does not indicate whether the investigators attempted to speak with the two other students identified in the e-mail.

CNN is not naming the students mentioned in the e-mail because none of them has been named a suspect in the death of Johnson.

Lowndes County sheriff's investigators concluded Johnson got stuck while reaching for a shoe at the center of the mat and that his death was accidental. The state's medical examiner agreed, citing "positional asphyxia" as the cause of death.

Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson believe their son was beaten to death and officials are "covering up a murder." An independent pathologist, hired by Johnson's parents, concluded Johnson's death was the result of a homicide after finding evidence of "unexplained apparent non-accidental blunt force trauma" to Johnson's neck.

"If anybody has any information of a different opinion that they can provide to us, we're certainly open to looking at that. We're not closed-minded on this," Lt. Stryde Jones, supervisor of the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office's Investigative Division told CNN in May.

The sheriff's office has received many public comments regarding Johnson's death since it closed its case on May 2. The grand jury subpoena is the first document provided to CNN that suggests the department has acted on any of those public comments.

"Although our case has been closed, if evidence comes forward, specifically testimony, then we're open to hearing that and certainly we'll act accordingly," Lt. Jones said.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Bradfield Shealy issued the subpoena to Mediacom Communications Corporation on January 28. The New York-based cable, phone and Internet provider was ordered to provide the Lowndes County grand jury with subscriber information associated with the e-mail sent through the Lowndes County sheriff's office's website or submit the documents to the district attorney's office or Lt. Jones before February 26.

According to a Lowndes County Sheriff's Office incident report, the subpoena was faxed to Mediacom on February 7. The company intends to comply with the order. However, a Mediacom employee told CNN by phone Wednesday that Mediacom has not received the subpoena.

Last week, students from Lowndes High School and nearby Valdosta High School were among those who appeared before a federal grand jury in Macon, as part of the Department of Justice's investigation into Johnson's death. The U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, Michael Moore, launched the federal probe October 31.

Updated By: Joe Hellriegel
March 13, 2014, 6pm

The Johnson's family attorney told WCTV KJ's former schoolmates at Lowndes High School were subpoenaed by a federal grand jury to the federal courthouse in Macon.

This comes after a federal investigation was launched 4 months ago on KJ's death where he was found at the Lowndes High School gym in a rolled up gym mat.

By: WCTV Eyewitness News
December 20, 2013

Valdosta, GA -- New details have emerged in the investigation of Kendrick Johnson’s death.

The FBI is planning on taking hard drives from the Lowndes County High School surveillance system, after a grand jury subpoena issued yesterday allowed the move.

17-year-old Kendrick Johnson was found dead in the gym inside of a rolled-up gym mat. Surveillance video was released last month, but the footage left many, including the teen's parents, suspicious that parts had been edited.

By: Andy Alcock
November 21, 2013

Lowndes County, FL - The Kendrick Johnson file includes interviews, phone records, pictures and much more information.

It's all part of the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office 522 page file in the Kendrick Johnson death investigation.

That investigation concludes Johnson accidentally died in January by becoming lodged in a gym mat.

How did investigators reach that conclusion?

Three students told police Johnson and other students routinely stored their gym shoes in the vertically stacked mats.

Investigators also found students routinely walked on top of the mats.

The student who found Johnson's body said she climbed on top of the mats to take a nap when she saw KJ's feet inside one of them.

While LCSO concluded KJ's death was accidental, records show investigators did interview several students and looked at text messages to determine if foul play might be possible.

Investigators tried to interview two brothers.

The report indicates one of the brothers was involved in a fight with KJ during a football trip to Atlanta.

However, while their attorney wouldn't let the brothers speak to investigators, further evidence of their whereabouts showed the brothers couldn't have been involved in KJ's death.

By: Winnie Wright
November 7, 2013

Valdosta, GA - Little by little, the family of Kendrick Johnson is getting answers about what happened to their son last January. Wednesday night, new video was released showing KJ in the high school the day of his death.

Kendrick Johnson's family, friends, and attorney's took to the steps of the Lowndes County Judicial building today to raise questions about the authenticity of the video, which shows no time stamp.
According to the family's attorney, Ben Crump, the video was without time codes, while photos of the video, released by the Sherrif's Office have time codes posted.

Kendrick's father says sooner or later, the lies are going to end.

Ken Johnson, Kendrick Johnson's father: "This family is not going to take it. We're going to stand. It doesn't matter how long it takes.

The new videos haven't deterred the family from their goal. They plan to continue fighting for a Coroner's Inquest.

The next step for the Johnson family is to acquire the meta-data, which is the raw video from Lowndes County High School.

From Benjamin L. Crump, Esq. Facebook Page:

NEWS ALERT: The parents of Kendrick Johnson will share their reaction to the release of today’s video footage at 1PM EST on Nov. 7, 2013 in front of the Valdosta Courthouse.

It is amazing how 36 cameras, showing 36 angles and the one video that shows #KendrickJohnson's last moments alive is the one that is blurry. #coincidence? #TheFightContinues #JusticeForKJ

Associated Press Release

VALDOSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Attorneys say a Georgia Superior Court judge told them he wants to know what federal authorities discover before deciding whether to order a coroner's inquest into the death of a Valdosta teenager found inside a rolled-up wrestling mat at school.

Benjamin Crump, attorney for the family of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson, and Jim Elliott, lawyer for the Lowndes County coroner, say Judge Harry J. Altman told them Wednesday he won't rule until the U.S. attorney's office in Macon completes a review launched last week. Elliott said he expects the judge to file a formal order Thursday.

Sheriff's investigators decided Johnson died in a freak accident after getting stuck upside down inside the mat. Johnson's parents suspect someone killed him.

Crump says he plans to appeal the judge's decision to wait.

By: Matt Galka
November 7, 2013

Macon, GA - WCTV was there as U.S. attorney for the middle district of Georgia Michael Moore announced he'd be reviewing the Kendrick Johnson case. The Lowndes County Sheriff's Office deemed closed after they determined the death was accidental.

"The F.B.I., who I believe is the finest investigative agency in the world, is cooperating with us in our efforts. Should sufficient information be developed to warrant a criminal civil rights investigation, I will ask the F.B.I. to open a civil rights, or any other, appropriate criminal investigation," said Moore.

Kendrick Johnson's family Attorney Ben Crump was adamant about the family's continued efforts to try and find out what exactly happened to the teenager. Johnson was found dead, rolled up in a gym mat in the Lowndes High School gymnasium back in January.

"Until we get the answers of not only who killed Kendrick Johnson but why people are trying to cover for those individuals, we won't stop," said Crump outside of his office in Tallahassee. He added that they welcomed the U.S. attorney's investigation.

The Johnson family successfully sued the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office and obtained previously sealed surveillance video and documents used in the investigation that the family attorneys are reviewing. The Public Information Officer for the Sheriff's office dismissed the idea that this review meant they botched the investigation.

"We forwarded our investigative file to Mr. Moore's office several months ago, in fact immediately after the case was closed a copy was forwarded to Mr. Moore, we trust he reviewed that file and, again, we welcome his independent review and look forward to receiving his answers," said deputy Stryde Jones.

A decision on a coroner's inquest is expected Monday. If that is granted to the family, the coroner would present information on Kendrick's death to a jury and they would then decide how the teenager died.

Valdosta, GA - The United States Attorneys' Office will reopen the investigation into the death of Lowndes High student, Kendrick Johnson.

Johnson was found dead in a gym mat at Lowndes County High School in January 2013.

The cause of death has been under much scrutiny with the family recently winning a legal battle over the release of the surveillance video from the school gymnasium.

Stay with WCTV for the latest updates on this developing story.

By: Matt Galka
October 30, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - Kendrick Johnson's mother, Jacquelyn, was thankful for a judge's ruling allowing the family to obtain surveillance video that could help determine her son's death.

"It feels great, we're just one step closer to finding out what happened to my son," said Jacquelyn Johnson while standing in her attorney's office.

Video obtained by WCTV shows other people in the gym with Kendrick Johnson before he was found dead and rolled up in a gym mat in the Lowndes County High School gymnasium back in January.

"It's still a long battle, we still have a long way to go, but it's a start," said Kendrick's father Kenneth Johnson.

The 1900 hours of video was not all immediately given to the family and their attorneys because, as attorney Ben Crump says, the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office did not think the judge would rule in favor of the Johnson's. The family attorneys say that this might not show what happened to Kendrick, but could cast doubt on the "accidental death" ruling from the sheriff's office.

"We don't think you will see on that video Kendrick climbing into a wrestling mat as has been concluded by the sheriff's department. That's what we don't think you will see in any on of this 1900 hours of surveillance video," said Crump.

The judge released hundreds of pages of documents from the Lowndes County Sheriff's office investigation into Johnson's death.

"We now have the means of which to identify specific students, what it is that they claim to have seen, and to go much further into our inquiry, our questioning of them, as to what information they may have that would help us, like I said, get to the truth of what happened to Kendrick," said attorney Chevene King.

We reached out to the sheriff's office on Wednesday but they did not want to comment. A decision on the family's lawsuit regarding a coroner inquest is expected to be made Monday.

Micahel Moore, the United States attorney for the middle district of Georgia, is expected to make an announcement on this case on Thursday at 1 p.m. in Macon, GA.

By: Elizabeth Nickerson
October 30, 2013

Valdosta, GA - The family and friends of Kendrick Johnson celebrate as they walk out of the Lowndes County Superior Court. A judge Wednesday granted the Johnson family access to all of the surveillance tapes from the Lowndes High school gym. Kendrick's body was found in a rolled up gym mat in January.

"Anticipate getting copies of all of the video, both within the gym and areas outside the gym leading to the gym space itself," said Chevene King, one of the Johnson family attorney's.

Johnson's death was originally ruled accidental asphyxiation by the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office. Johnson's family then hired its own pathologist, which ruled the 17-year-old died from blunt force trauma.
Kendrick's father says the new video released will show what really happened to his son.

"You can't prepare yourself for it," said Kenneth Johnson, Kendrick Johnson's Father. "It's just something we have to do, we'll fight for Kendrick till the end."

"It was a win for the community and everybody who really wants this murder mystery to be solved," said Ben Crump, one of the Johnson family attorney's.

WCTV reached out to the Lowdnes County Sheriff's Office, but officials would not comment.

A decision on a coroner's inquest with the Lowndes County coroner is expected on Monday, November 4TH.

The judge will decide If jurors would hear the coroner present information on Johnson's death. They would then decide how the teen died.

"We're happy to hear that we are one step closer to the truth," said Johnson.

Ben Crump says If the coroner's inquest is not granted, they will consider federal intervention.

Valdosta, GA - The judge has ordered the full file in the Kendrick Johnson death investigation to be released to the family.

This includes surveillance video of the gymnasium where 17-year-old Johnson was found dead in a wrestling mat

WCTV expects to receive a copy of this video, and will bring you more information as it is available.

Press Release: Kendrick Johnson Family & Attorneys

The family of Kendrick Johnson will be in court tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. for a hearing regarding the release of the video surveillance tape from the high school gymnasium in which their son was found dead in a wrestling mat.

The family's attorneys filed court paperwork requesting that the video be released. They are also seeking a Coroner's Inquest.

The hearing will be held in the Lowndes County Superior Court building located at 327 North Ashley Street, Valdosta, 31601.

The family and their attorneys will address media outside the courthouse following the hearing.

By: Bailey Myers
October 22, 2013

Valdosta, GA - The Johnson family's lawyers have announced they will be suing the Lowndes County Sheriff and the Coroner.
Kendrick Johnson's grandmother said, "No matter what it is we want the truth to come out." Demanding the truth Kendrick Johnson's family has now filed lawsuits against both the Coroner of Lowndes County, Bill Watson and the Sheriff of the County Chris Prine saying they have a right to know how investigators determined Kendrick Johnson's death was an accident.

Johnson Family Attorney Ben Crump said, "The scene investigation has been compromised. But, we believe there are some things that could speak to us like the video, DNA and blood evidence." Both CNN and the Johnson family have filed suit requesting all investigative finds be released. Focusing on the full surveillance video from the gymnasium, Johnson family attorney Chevene King, "It should show either Kendrick entered the mats as theorized, or he was brought to they gymnasium other than his own power."

Another lawsuit filed against the Coroner of Lowndes County requests he grant a coroner's inquest. Where the coroner would present information on Kendrick's death and jurors would decide based on that information how Kendrick died. "It's going to be hard... Kendrick was my son... It can't get no harder than that," explained Kendrick's father.

"It's an insult to injury and we have to file these legal papers and jump these hoops just to get to the truth of the matter asserted. We will get to the truth, we have no doubt about that."

Attorneys for the family of Kendrick Johnson plan to have a hearing with a Lowndes County judge on October 30th regarding the surveillance footage. A date has not been set in the suit against the coroner. We will update you as soon as that information comes available.

By: Bailey Myers
October 22, 2013, 12:35pm

Kendrick Johnson's family has filed a petition requesting a judge to order a coroner's inquest.

If the inquest is granted, then a jury will decide the cause of death.

Press Release: Kendrick Johnson's Family

Kendrick Johnson's parents, along with family attorneys Chevene B. King, Jr. and Benjamin Crump, will address media tomorrow (Tuesday) at 11:30 a.m. to discuss the filing and their next legal moves in the case.

The media availability will take place in front of the Lowndes County Superior Court building located at 327 North Ashley Street, Valdosta, 31601.

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