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UPDATE: Deputies investigate student's death at Lowndes High School

Posted at 4:42 PM, Jan 14, 2013

UPDATED: 1/14/2013--11:25 p.m.

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WTXL)--Family members are mourning the loss of a 17-year old boy whose body was found at his south Georgia high school.

Preliminary autopsy results show Lowndes High School student Kendrick Johnson had no injuries to his body and at this point they are still ruling out foul play.

Lowndes County investigators say there were no signs of a struggle taking place. They say Kendrick Johnson got stuck in a mat at the school's old gym and couldn't get out.

Family members say Kendrick Johnson's bright future was cut too short.

"He was really a promising football player, had he made it through high school, I'm sure Florida State or somebody would've picked him up," said Lydia Tooley-Whitlock, Johnson's aunt.

Investigators say on Thursday Johnson didn't show up to his fourth period class, later that night family members reported him missing.

Friday morning he was found dead inside a rolled-up gym mat.

"These mats just to describe them a little bit, they're actually very large floor mats but when you roll them up of course it creates a circle and leaves an opening in the middle that's approximately two foot wide," Lowndes County Lt. Stryde Jones.

Investigators say it appears Johnson was on top of mats that were standing up right, when he possibly fell or reached inside the hole of the mat to get a shoe and got stuck.

"From the evidence we found, this is not a murder," said Lt. Jones. "It appears to be just a terrible terrible tragedy that resulted in a young man losing his life."

Kenneth Johnson, the father of Kendrick Johnson is asking:

"How can you fall over in a wrapped up mat?"

He thinks someone killed him.

"Whoever done this to my son will be punished," said Johnson.

Kenneth Johnson says he was close to his son.

He says the last thing they talked about was a trip they were planning to Las Vegas.

"All of his nice smiles and funny jokes are gone," said Johnson.

Still overcome with grief and anger, these distraught family members are now asking the community for prayers and support.

It could take 30 days until Kendrick Johnson's exact cause of death is determined.

UPDATED: 1/14/2013--6:05 p.m.

LOWNDES COUNTY, Ga. (WTXL)--The following has been released by Sheriff Chris Prine;

An autopsy was completed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Medical Examiner’s Office today. During that exam, no indications of injury that would have caused the death of Kendrick Johnson were found. Additional testing will be completed in the near future in an attempt to determine the exact cause of death.

During the investigation, investigators have learned that Kendrick Johnson went into the gymnasium and appears to have climbed on top of the mats which were standing upright. At some point Kendrick Johnson either reached into the center of one of the rolled mats or fell into the center opening of the mat and became lodged. Investigators found no signs of a struggle having taken place. Investigators with the Sheriff’s Office have and will continue to interview students and friends who may be able to provide information.

Sheriff Prine is asking that anyone with information about this, or any other incident contact the Sheriff’s Office at {229} 671-2950 or on line at Anonymous tips can be left at {229} 671-2985.



UPDATED: 1/12/2013---8:08 p.m.

LOWNDES COUNTY, Ga. (WTXL)--Deputies have released the name of the student found dead at Lowndes High School.

Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine says Kendrick Johnson's body was found in the old gym at Lowndes High School Friday morning. Johnson was 17 years old and a sophomore. Investigators are examining evidence from the scene and continuing to interview people.

His exact cause of death hasn’t been determined yet. Kendrick Johnson's body is scheduled for an autopsy on Monday.

UPDATED: 01/11/13 ---6:40 p.m.

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WTXL) --The investigation continues into the death of a Lowndes High School student.

Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine says the student's body was found Friday morning.

Students tell us they were told of the student's death during second period. We're learning the student, whose name has yet to be released, was a sophomore at the school.

Despite launching the investigating as a "possible homicide", a joint statement released by Lowndes County School Superintendent Wes Taylor and Sheriff Chris Prine says "Although the exact cause of death is yet to be determined, as of this stage of the investigation, nothing has been discovered to indicate foul play was involved, according to Sheriff Prine. An autopsy will be conducted on Monday by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation medical examiner’s office to attempt to determine an exact cause of death."

“We are deeply saddened that the body of a Lowndes High student was discovered today on the LHS campus,” said Superintendent Wes Taylor. “Our hearts are burdened for the family, friends, students, staff, and our community.”

The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office and emergency medical personnel were immediately called to the scene.

Under the supervision of Sheriff Chris Prine, the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office is leading the investigation with the assistance of the GBI.  The investigative team remained on the scene for several hours collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses.

“We are confident that the campus of Lowndes High School is safe for the return of students on Monday,” said Sheriff Prine.

The Lowndes County Schools—in cooperation with the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office and in consideration of the family—will not be releasing the name of the deceased at this time.




VALDOSTA, Ga. (WTXL) -- A death investigation is underway after a body was found Friday morning at Lowndes High School.

WTXL has confirmed with Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine and school district leaders that the body found is that of a Lowndes High School student.

Sheriff Prine says they are investigating the student's death as a possible homicide.

A lockdown at the school has been lifted. Classes are resuming and will be dismissed at the usual time.

Sheriff Prine says parents should be assured their children are safe.

Watch ABC27 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. for live updates.