Jacquelyn Johnson looked at the clock. She didn’t expect her youngest son to be home for some more time even though school was over because he had a basketball class. But some more time turned into hours, it grew dark and yet he wasn’t home. She tried his cell phone but didn’t receive an answer. She even drove around the school and neighborhood in search of him before finally reporting it to the police after midnight.
The next morning, on 11th January 2013, some of the students at Lowndes High school in Valdosta, Georgia discovered something white poking out from one of the gym mats. On further observation they realized the white to be socks on the feet of a person inside the rolled-up mat. They tried talking to the person, but there seemed to be no movement or response. They immediately called a faculty member and even the police were called in the meantime. On arriving the police unmistakably recognized the stench of a dead body and asked everyone to stay away. It took very little time in identifying that the body was none other than Kendrick Johnson, the 17-year-old who was reported missing by his mother the previous night.
Death by accident?
The official statement released to the public and to the family suggested the means of death as an accident. Apparently Kendrick had gone to collect his sneakers at the gym which the students usually hid within the mats so as to escape paying for a locker. As this was the second day of school after winter break, the gym mats were all rolled up and placed vertically due to cleaning being done during the holidays. The sheriff assumed that Kendrick must’ve gotten on to the benches to look for his sneakers within the mat. And on finding them at the lower end of one of the mats, he must’ve tried squeezing into it and reaching for the shoes on the floor. Now the gym mats were about 6 feet in length and had an opening of about 14 inches after being rolled up. So consequently Kendrick must’ve gotten himself stuck and later on died due to positional asphyxia. The reason for this being his airways being blocked due to his upside-down position and also lack of air entry into the mat.
Eerie circumstances surrounding his death
The Johnson family couldn’t believe that their son was dead because of a never before heard reason. They went before higher officials and tried everything they could to find out more behind their son’s death. They suspected foul play and also couldn’t understand how a school filled with students and management didn’t hear any cries for help or even see anything.
Another mysterious thing was that a pair of white sneakers was found hooked behind Kendrick’s knees when he was found. But there was also a single black sneaker on the floor lying in a pool of blood. Surprisingly there was no blood at all on the sneaker.
CCTV footage analyzed and released by CNN showed Kendrick walking towards the gym on 10th January. Another footage even showed him jogging around in the gym. But there was no footage in any of the cameras after that. Then there were time gaps in the videos making it all the more suspicious. The school authorities explained this as the cameras being motion sensors, wouldn’t capture anything that didn’t move. They also said that the time discrepancies in the various videos were an issue they had been facing for a while and thus didn’t mean that some footage had been cut.
Another thing boggling everyone was how did around 19 inches of Kendrick’s shoulder fit into the 14 inches space? This was even tested by his father later on who is almost the same build and he couldn’t pass beyond his neck. Even if one considered that Kendrick was rolled up into the mat, the opening wasn’t wide enough to make sense to this theory.