Kendrick Johnson Case Reopened, Possible Confession Surfaces In His Gym Mat Death

‘They're going to catch me,’ a male allegedly can be heard saying on an audio recording.

April 01, 2021

Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson stand next to a banner on their SUV showing their late son, Kendrick Johnson in Valdosta, Ga. in 2013 [via AP Images]

Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson stand next to a banner on their SUV showing their late son, Kendrick Johnson in Valdosta, Ga. in 2013 [via AP Images]

By: Aaron Rasmussen

Almost a decade after Georgia investigators concluded 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson’s death in his school’s gymnasium was a freak accident, authorities have reopened the case and are looking into potential new evidence that includes a possible recorded confession.

“If there's questions — and they're legitimate — I need to know the answers myself,” said Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk, who is leading the investigation, according to CNN.

On January 11, 2013, the teenager died upside-down in a vertical rolled up mat at Lowndes High School in Valdosta.

In a preliminary investigation, detectives theorized Johnson was reaching for a shoe at the bottom of the mat when he fell and became wedged inside.

A Georgia Bureau of Investigation autopsy determined the student’s death was accidental and due to positional asphyxia. However, an independent autopsy later found the “cause of death was blunt force trauma to the right side of Kendrick’s neck, near the jaw, and the manner of death was not an accident,” a report from the Department of Justice states.

Johnson’s family has always insisted the teenager was the victim of foul play.

On March 19, Sheriff Paulk said the boy’s mother, Jacquelyn Johnson, recently obtained an audio recording on which a person allegedly is heard confessing to murder.

“They had a recording that they actually purchased from someone who said that it would be valuable as far as saying who possibly had committed the crime and change their situation," Paulk said, according to Atlanta’s WAGA-TV.

According to a transcript of the recording provided by Johnson family spokesman Marcus Coleman and obtained by Macon’s WMAZ-TV, a male says, “[They're] gonna catch me anyways ... should've never done that,” and adds, “I was young and stupid, man, Kendrick didn't deserve that ... they're going to catch me.”

“If it's a hoax, it's a very, very cruel hoax to do to Mrs. Johnson,” Sheriff Paulk said, noting deputies were in the process of verifying the veracity of the recording.

“It's been eight long years,” the teenager’s mother recently told CNN. “I'm feeling hopeful.”

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