And Dr. Bill Anderson, the private pathologist hired by Johnson's family who conducted the second autopsy, found that Johnson had a blow to right side of his neck "consistent with inflicted injury."
"I've never had a case that I can recall where the prosecution actually was told that this may well be a homicide -- the prosecution being the state, the police and so forth -- and then they didn't bother prosecuting," said Anderson, from Forensic Dimensions in Heathrow, Florida. "It's mystifying."
Yet a number of official reports paint a different picture.
A January 25 report by the Valdosta-Lowndes County Regional Crime Laboratory cited "no signs of blunt force trauma on Johnson's face or body."
And the original autopsy results released by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation May 2 identified "no significant injuries."
Mother: We'll keep at it 'until we get justice'
So what is the truth?
The Johnson family says one way to find out is through a coroner's inquest, a process in which a panel -- after reviewing evidence and testimony -- decides on a cause of death. They plan to file a lawsuit as early as next week to force the district attorney to force such an inquest.
If this process ends with a ruling Kendrick Johnson's death was a homicide, not an accident, then authorities would logically reopen their investigation. And with that, the Johnsons hope, they'll find out who is responsible.
Maybe then they'll see the full surveillance footage from the school gymnasium that winter day, which might show whether anyone else was there with Kendrick Johnson.
And maybe they'll find out who stuffed newspaper in place of the teenager's internal organs. GBI spokeswoman Sherry Lang said the organs were placed in Johnson's body before it was sent to a funeral home. The funeral home's owner, Antonio Harrington, wrote to the family that his firm never received the teen's organs, claiming they were "discarded by the prosecutor."
Jacquelyn Johnson says the family is committed to keeping Kendrick's spirit alive.
They held a party this week to mark what would have been his 18th birthday. And Jacquelyn Johnson says she still talks to him, up in heaven, to "tell him that I love him and I missed him."
Asked why she does, the mother said, "It just gives me more motivation to keep fighting for him -- until we get justice."