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Copyright 2018 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


A judge has dismissed an appeal from the parents of Kendrick Johnson, the Valdosta teen found dead in a rolled-up gym mat more than five years ago. The parents had appealed a ruling ordering them to pay nearly $300,000 in attorney fees to those they accused of killing their son and the parties they alleged covered it up.

Lowndes County Superior Court Senior Judge Richard Porter noted that, as of last Wednesday, "there has been no response by plaintiffs to the motion to dismiss and no transcript filed in any of these cases." Porter's ruling stems from a 2015 wrongful death lawsuit, withdrawn and refiled a year later, alleging brothers Brian and Branden Bell murdered 17-yearold Kendrick Johnson.

From ABHigh School Student Dies While Trapped in Wrestling Mat

The Lowndes High sophomore's body was discovered Jan. 11, 2013, in the school's old gymnasium. State and local investigators concluded he died from positional asphyxia after he got stuck inside the rolled-up mat, presumably reaching for a pair of sneakers.

Kendrick's parents, Kenneth and Jackie Johnson, have maintained their son's death was no accident. They say he was the victim of a vast conspiracy that included an FBI agent, a former sheriff and Lowndes County's school superintendent.

They alleged a similar cover-up in a federal lawsuit that was dismissed after their attorney failed to meet deadlines for court paperwork.

"I don't care where I go nor what I do I cannot stop thinking about my baby," Jackie Johnson posted Saturday on Facebook. "This is so messed up on so many levels the pain our family has to go through and none of the (sic)murders (sic) thuggs are locked up!"

The Johnsons filed a fourth lawsuit, this time in Bibb County, last July claiming photographs and "moving images" captured on school surveillance cameras were either doctored or withheld. That lawsuit was dismissed due to a failure to pay transfer costs.

A video analysis by the FBI concluded Brian Bell and alleged accomplice Ryan Hall "were in different areas of the LHS campus during the time in question." Branden Bell was participating in a wrestling tournament in Macon at the time of Johnson's death.

That analysis, collected from surveillance cameras on the Lowndes High School campus, included time stamps that adjusted discrepancies between multiple video systems. Those discrepancies were caused by the systems not being synchronized, the report said.

In his ruling ordering the payment of attorneys' fees, Porter accused the Johnsons and their attorney, Chevene King, of fabricating evidence to support their claims. "Their testimony shows they had no evidence," he wrote.

In 2016, the Justice Department concluded there was "insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone or some group of people willfully violated Kendrick Johnson's civil rights or committed any other prosecutable federal crime."

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March 29, 2018


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