$500K reward offered for information on Kendrick Johnson’s death

The body of the Georgia high school sophomore was discovered rolled up in a gym mat in 2013.

A sheriff in Valdosta, Georgia, has offered half a million dollars of his own money as a reward for information leading to an arrest in the Kendrick Johnson case.

Sheriff Ashley Paulk says he will put forth $500,000 because the Johnson family called him a liar after he concluded that there is no evidence of a crime in the January 2013 death of 17-year-old Johnson, who was found dead in a rolled-up gym mat at Lowndes High School, theGrio reported

Kendrick Johnson thegrio.com
(Credit: Johnson family)

The new findings were the result of a second investigation by the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office following one by the FBI. Paulk told WSB-TV his office reviewed the FBI’s findings, as well as 17 boxes of evidence, to reach their decision.

Paulk maintained that Johnson’s death was a tragic accident. The body of the high school sophomore was discovered rolled up in a gym mat. State and local officials ruled that Johnson suffocated after reaching for a pair of sneakers he’d placed inside the mat and getting stuck, per theGrio.

But his parents never accepted that his death was an accident.

In 2018, they asked for and received permission to exhume their son’s body to have a third autopsy conducted. The third autopsy supported the results of the second — that Johnson died of “non-accidental” trauma to his body, Atlanta Black Star reported.

Johnson’s family has rejected the findings in Paulk’s 16-page report, which was released Wednesday and published on Scribd

“If it takes 10 years, 11 years to find out the truth, we will be steadfast in finding out the truth of what happened to Kendrick,” said his father, Kenneth Johnson, during a press conference on Jan. 29, following the release of the sheriff’s synopsis. “We will prove that this Sheriff’s department once again lied.”

Paulk responded by offering the money via a press release.

“Because of these statements, I am personally — with my own funds — offering a reward of one-half million dollars ($500,000.00) to anyone who comes forward with information that results in the arrest and conviction of a person for the alleged murder of Kendrick Johnson at Lowndes High School. I also urge anyone — including the family — to add to this reward if they so desire,” the release says.

The family is raising $400,000 to “benefit the Kendrick Johnson Foundation’s mission to raise awareness on the need for increased supervision and safety within our public schools.”

In their GoFundMe page post, Johnson wrote: “On January 10, 2013, Kendrick’s life was tragically cut short when he was discovered dead in a rolled-up gym mat, under highly suspicious circumstances.” 

“A subsequent autopsy conducted by our forensic pathologist subsequently confirmed our worst nightmare that our son’s death was no accident,” she continues. “Kendrick died as a result of blunt force trauma to his person. As parents, our hearts are broken, but we are determined to prevent a tragedy of this magnitude from occurring again.” 

This article contains additional reporting from Biba Adams and Keydra Manns.

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