The family of dead Georgia teen Kendrick Johnson has had their grief compounded as they've learned that the 17-year-old’s body was stuffed with newspaper to replace his organs when he was buried.
"We have been let down again," Kendrick’s father, Kenneth Johnson, told CNN on Thursday. “"When we buried Kendrick, we thought we were burying Kendrick, not half of Kendrick."
Kendrick’s parents did not believe the state medical examiner’s report that the 17-year-old suffocated in a rolled-up gym mat while trying to fetch his sneaker back in January. A court sided with the parents and ordered a second autopsy of Kendrick and his remains exhumed in June.
When the second autopsy was performed, the private examiner found there were no organs.
"I'm not sure at this point who did not return the organs to the body," the pathologist, Dr. Bill Anderson, told CNN. "But I know when we got the body, the organs were not there."
Not only were Kendrick’s organs missing, but the pathologist said evidence showed the teen died of blunt force trauma and not accidental choking, WCTV reported. The finding confirmed Kendrick’s parents' belief that his death was not an accident.
"We already knew. Deep down inside we knew how Kendrick was. We knew he was murdered,” Kendrick’s mother, Jacquelyn Johnson, told WCTV. The family is expected to hold a news conference Thursday.
"They know something happened in that gym, and they don't want it to come out," Kenneth Johnson said of investigators.
CNN obtained photos of Kendrick’s death scene, and one investigator who was shown the pictures also said he believed the death wasn’t a freak occurrence.
"I don't believe this was an accident. I think this young man met with foul play," Harold Copus, a former FBI agent who is now a private investigator in Atlanta, told the network.
Both the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the funeral home that conducted Kendrick’s embalming and burial denied misplacing the organs.
GBI spokeswoman Sherry Lang said after the first autopsy of Kendrick was conducted, "the organs were placed in Johnson's body, the body was closed, then the body was released to the funeral home.”
The Harrington Funeral Home said it never received the organs. The funeral home’s owner, Antonio Harrington, told Kendrick’s family that the organs “were destroyed through natural process" and "discarded by the prosecutor before the body was sent back to Valdosta.”
Newspaper and store circulars were stuffed into Kendrick’s body. His mother said his body was treated “like a garbage can.”
Mortuary experts and medical examiners condemned stuffing the 17-year-old’s body with newspapers.
"I have never heard of this practice,” Dr. Gregory Schmunk, president of the National Association of Medical Examiners, told CNN.