Family awaits second autopsy results for teen

Investigators say 17-year-old suffocated in gym mat

VALDOSTA, Ga. - The family of a Valdosta teen whose body was exhumed for a second autopsy says it cost $8,000 to do so.

They say it was worth it to find out what really happened to their son, Kendrick Johnson.

The 17-year-old's remains are back in the grave after the second autopsy was performed Saturday in Orlando.

Eddie Tooley says it was difficult to see his grandson be buried again at Sunset Hill Cemetery in Valdosta.

"It was like an instantly reply of the first time he went down," Tooley said. "Everything comes back like it happened all over again."

In January, Johnson was found dead, rolled up inside a gym mat at Lowndes High School. Investigators say the teen tried to reach for a shoe that was stuck inside the mat. An initial autopsy said Johnson died from positional asphyxiation.

The family's attorney says there is security video showing the teen going in the gym toward the mats. But his family thinks he was too big to have gotten inside the rolled up mats. They say he was killed.

"The truth must come out," the teen's father, Kenneth Johnson, said. "He was a loving son, kind. A lot of people loved him, but there was somebody who hated him."

His family is determined to find out what they believe really happened. Each day in downtown Valdosta, family and friends sit quietly with their signs and message of justice.

"It's a nightmare," Johnson said. "A family shouldn't have to go through all this just to get a correct answer."

The community is supporting the family's fight for a resolution.

"Hopefully now with a body exhumed and they'll get results, and that will just lay everything to rest," resident Cathy Potapov said.

"I have two children of my own and I have chills standing out here thinking, 'What if that happened to one of mine and there's no closure and it drags on and on?'" resident Karen Beck said.

"If (the autopsy report) comes back and it's still the same, we will just have to deal with it as it happens," Tooley said.

The Lowndes County Sheriff's Office issued a statement saying it conducted a thorough investigation and welcomes any independent review of the the investigation.

The second autopsy report could take several weeks to come back.

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