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New Kendrick Johnson autopsy report released; contradicts original ruling

Kendrick Johnson
Posted at 2:15 PM, Sep 03, 2013
and last updated 2014-04-04 10:03:16-04

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WTXL/CNN) -- A newly-released autopsy report is raising new questions about the death of Lowndes County teen Kendrick Johnson.

The 17-year-old's body was found January 11, 2013 inside a rolled up wrestling mat inside the gym at Lowndes County High School in Valdosta.

However, a newly-released, independent, autopsy report, obtained by CNN, contradicts findings made by investigators who say Johnson's death was an accident. WTXL has not indepedently verified the content of the second autopsy report, however have been told by family members that the report will be released later this week.

CNN reports the new autopsy, conducted by a private pathologist hired by the Johnson family, found that Johnson died as the result of "unexplained, apparent non-accidental, blunt force trauma." This report contradicts findings of the initial autopsy done by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation which determined Johnson's death was the result of "positional asphyxia". Investigators with the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office ruled Johnson's death as accidental.

Convinced Johnson's death was no accident, his family has urged investigators to take another look at the case. On May 1, 2013 a judge granted the Johnson family's request to exhume their son's body for the purpose of conducting an independent autopsy at the family's expense.

The autopsy, conducted June 15, reportedly found blunt force trauma to the right neck and soft tissues, "consistent with inflicted injury."

That supports the narrative of the initial Patient Care Report, written January 11, the day Johnson's body was discovered, sighting 'bruising noted to the right side jaw."

However, the January 25 report by the Valdosta - Lowndes County Regional Crime Laboratory cited "no signs of blunt force trauma on Johnson's face or body."

The May 5 autopsy completed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation identified "no significant injuries"

A spokesperson for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation tells CNN they stand by their report, after reviewing the findings of the independent autopsy.

"We've been working on to this for some time. I'm sure at the appropriate time I'll speak with his pathologist," said US Attorney Michael Moore.

The family's attorney tells CNN the report has now sent this report to the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the US Attorney for Georgia's Middle District and Lowndes County Coroner for review.

"I want to do the right thing by the people and the county and all concerned,  I'm just not sure we have enough information.  I'm not about to refute anybody's findings because I'm not a doctor," Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson told CNN.

Watson tells CNN he is reviewing the report to determine whether to call a Coroner's inquest. That is a process where a jury would decide the cause of death, although the findings alone would have no civil or criminal consequences.

"Coroner's Inquests are not something you do every day," Watson said. "I cannot tell you the last time a Coroner's inquest was done in this office."

US Attorney Michael Moore tells CNN he is reviewing the case but has not launched a formal investigation.

"There are some members of the community that question the result.  I want to make sure members of the community and the family and everyone involved has confidence in my work and my decision," Moore told CNN.

The spokesperson for the DOJ Civil Rights Division has not yet responded to questions about the new report.