Teen's organs weren't with body after autopsy

Private medical examiner says body was stuffed with newspaper

VALDOSTA, Ga. - The office of the Secretary of Georgia is investigating why 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson's organs were not with his body after the first autopsy on him was done.

Investigators say the teen accidentally suffocated after he climbed onto a rolled-up gym mat to reach a shoe. But the family paid for a second autopsy, which they say revealed he received blunt force trauma to the neck.

The second medical examiner said Johnson had no organs in his body. Instead, he was stuffed with newspaper.

Jacksonville funeral director Carla Page said that's not unusual. She said some funeral directors use newspaper, cotton or even straw to stuff a body to fill it back out.

"We have to fill the person out so that they can be viewable," she said. "Otherwise, you will be sunken in."

But what is strange is that Johnson's organs were not with his body, Page said.

"The organs are always with the body when it comes from the medical examiner's," Page said.

But this summer, that wasn't the case when the family hired medical examiner Bill Anderson, who determined the 17-year-old's death was the result of blunt force trauma to the neck.

"When we got the body for the second autopsy, the organs -- the heart, lungs, liver, etc. -- were not with the body," Anderson said.

"I would look further into it if it were my family," Page said.

The owner of Harrington Funeral Home, which the Johnsons hired to prepare their son's body for burial, said it never received the teen's organs from the medical examiner.

In a letter from the Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson to the attorney for Harrington Funeral Home, Watson writes, "This case was handled like all other cases, that is sent to the lab for this procedure. It is the sole discretion of the office of the Medical Examiner, what is done. In this case, the Viscera, Which is the internal organs, were not sent back with the body, for disposition. It was confirmed by Mr. Bryan, who was present at the autopsy, that the viscera were disposed of, due to decomposition of the same."

The office of of the Secretary of Georgia says it is investigating the matter, but it has not commented.

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