VALDOSTA, Ga. (WTXL) — The Lowndes County Sheriff's Office says the audiotape that was claimed to contain a confession in the death case of Kendrick “KJ” Johnson is fake.
Johnson was found upside-down in a vertically stored gym mat at Lowndes High School in January 2013. A state autopsy ruled the 17-year-old’s death accidental, and a federal review of the case ended in 2016 when the Department of Justice announced it had not found “sufficient evidence to support federal criminal charges.”
Johnson's mother, Jacquelyn Johnson maintains her son's death was not accidental.
The family believed they’d found a potential confession in March when they were contacted by someone claiming to have recorded audio of a person "confessing." The recording reads as follows:
"They are going to catch me anyway, I should’ve never done this. I was young and stupid. Kendrick didn’t deserve this man. They’re going to catch me anyways."
Johnson's family paid $1,000 for the recording, which they handed over to LCSO to authenticate.
Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk said the perpetrator claimed to be a second cousin of the boy who "confessed, "and told Johnson's family he was at a birthday party with family members and one of the boys admitted to having played a part in what led to Kendrick Johnson's death.
The person who made the tape contacted Johnson's mother.
Paulk said once they were shown a picture of the person who created the audio recording, they knew exactly who it was and, knowing the family in question, said there is no second-cousin they are aware of.
"We identified him within 15 minutes because we've dealt with him before," said Paulk.
LCSO isn't releasing the perpetrator's identity while they talk to the victims. He currently only faces misdemeanor charges.
"There's the $1,000 and under Georgia law it's a misdemeanor, but there are federal statutes we're looking at," Paulk said.
Under federal law, Paulk said the faked audio recording could fall under cyberstalking, by causing emotional distress to a person using a cellular device.
"If that's possible, I would love to take it Federal because it's a very cruel hoax," said Paulk. "This was a terrible hoax perpetrated on a mother who lost her child."
Paulk also said it was falsely reported that an Atlanta chapter of a national organization paid an individual $1,000 for the tape.
"I never said a group gave money," said Paulk. "I don't know where the money came from."
Since Kendrick Johnson's death in 2013, the Johnson family has filed several lawsuits and Johnson’s body has been exhumed multiple times as the family fought to have his death investigated as a homicide.