It's looking more and more like the death of Valdosta, Georgia teenager Kendrick Johnson back in January was no accident. The strongest evidence to date suggesting that Johnson may have been beaten to death, and not suffocated in a gym mat at Lowndes County High School as investigators insist, comes from an open-records request by CNN. Apparently there are two different coroner's reports for this case--and the first one seems to indicate that Lowndes County deputies were grossly incompetent at best.
"I was not notifedi n (sic) this death until 15:45 hours. The investigative climate was very poor to worse when I arrived on the scene. The body had been noticably (sic) moved. The scene had been compromised and there was no cooperation from law enforcement at the scene. Furthermore the integrity of the evidence bag was compromised on January 13, 2013 by opening the sealed bag and exhibiting the dead body to his father," wrote Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson in a report dated January 22.
"I do not approve of the manner this case was handled. Not only was the scene compromised, the body was moved. The integrrety (sic) was breached by opening a sealed body bag, information necessary for my lawful investigation was withheld," he said.
The coroner's death investigation report was obtained by CNN through an open records request directed at the coroner's office.
A second coroner's death investigation report was provided by the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office.
The second report, which is not signed nor dated, is not nearly as critical as the first.
"I was not called by investigating officers regarding this death until the afore listed time of notification," it read.
It was not immediately clear why there were two coroner's reports. The inconsistencies between them were also not clear.
There are nada, zip, zero good-faith reasons that I can think of for why there would be two dramatically different coroner's reports for the same case. The obvious questions here--what are investigators trying to hide, and who are they trying to protect.
Anderson Cooper asked just about the same thing on Thursday night when CNN first got its hands on the documents. Watch his parley about this with Victor Blackwell here.
Cooper looked like he was trying his hardest to avoid doing a facepalm on air--especially when lawyers for the sheriff and coroner turned down CNN's request for an explanation, citing a probe by the local U. S. Attorney into the case. Though given how outrageous this looks, I don't think too many people would have had a problem.
This is just the latest development in this disturbing case. For those who don't know, Kendrick's death was officially ruled an accident. The medical examiner found that he'd suffocated after falling into the mat. However, EMTs who examined Kendrick's body found evidence of blunt-force trauma to the neck, but it wasn't mentioned in the state examiner's report. A second autopsy paid for by the Johnsons suggested that Kendrick had actually died from a blow to the neck.
Additionally, the scene was an absolute bloodbath. When CNN showed previously released video and about 700 pictures to former FBI agent Harold Copus, he concluded that Kendrick was murdered. To add insult to injury, the pathologist who conducted the second autopsy found that several organs had been removed prior to Kendrick's burial, and the cavities stuffed with newspaper.
Kendrick's family wanted to view some additional surveillance footage, but the sheriff refused to release it due to--wait for it--privacy concerns. But a judge didn't buy it and ordered the video released. When Kendrick's family got a chance to review it, they saw enough discrepancies to ask for the raw video, with timecodes, in order to see if it had been altered beforehand.
There's no question about it anymore--somebody, or a whole lot of somebodies, is hiding something about this case. And everyone involved in this cover-up needs to pay with their jobs--and possibly their freedom.