Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk announced on Monday that an investigation into Kendrick Johnson’s death had been reopened. The body of Johnson, 17, was found upside-down in the mat in Lowndes County High School in January 2013. Investigators ruled his death was an accident, although Johnson’s parents insisted due to the odd circumstances surrounding his death that he was murdered. At the time, Johnson’s parents had a second autopsy conducted by a private pathologist. This private pathologist concluded he died due to an “unexplained, apparent non-accidental blunt force trauma.”

In this Dec. 13, 2013 file photo, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson stand next to a banner on their SUV showing their late son, Kendrick Johnson, in Valdosta, Ga. The parents of Kendrick Johnson, who was found dead inside a rolled-up gym mat at school, have dropped a wrongful death lawsuit accusing two brothers of killing their son. Chevene King, the Johnsons’ attorney, told The Valdosta Daily Times, Tuesday, March 1, 2016, the family eventually plans to refile the lawsuit. (AP Photo/Russ Bynum, File)
Johnson’s mother, Jacquelyn Johnson, told CNN.
It’s been eight long years. I’m feeling hopeful.
The Department of Justice investigated for two-and-a-half years due to concerns of civil rights violations against Johnson. The investigation included interviewing nearly 100 people, reviewing emails and text messages, reviewing surveillance videos from Lowndes High School at the time, and analyzing other available information. They released the following statement in 2016 after their investigation.
Investigators determined that there is 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.
Sheriff Paulk came out of retirement in 2017. In April 2019, he requested all information collected during the federal investigation to be released to his department.
Federal investigators initially declined the request. After a meeting was set up with Johnsons and federal investigators, they decided to grant the request and release the information to the sheriff’s department to assist with the investigation’s reopening.
Paulk said his main concern was to see “if there are any discrepancies between the reports.”
Kenneth Johnson said of Paulk,
I’m hoping that he does the right thing. I just hope that the truth comes out.

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