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Gym mat death shocker: Body stuffed with newspaper

By Victor Blackwell and Devon Sayers | 10/10/2013, 8:38 a.m.
The death of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson was awful enough for his parents.
Kendrick Johnson

Funeral homes are licensed by the Georgia Secretary of State's office, which has opened an investigation into how Johnson's body was treated, said Jared Thomas, a spokesman for the agency.

Anderson, who was hired by the Johnson family for a second autopsy, found Kendrick Johnson had sustained a blow to the right side of his neck that was "consistent with inflicted injury." Challenging the state autopsy's finding of positional asphyxiation, he concluded the teen died as the result of "unexplained, apparent non-accidental, blunt force trauma."

And death scene imagery obtained exclusively by CNN has led a former FBI agent to question how Johnson died: "I think this young man met with foul play," said Harold Copus, now an Atlanta private investigator.

Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine refused to discuss the matter with CNN, calling Johnson's death a closed case. The U.S. Justice Department announced in September that it wouldn't open a civil rights investigation into the case.

But federal prosecutors in south Georgia have met with the family's representatives and are weighing whether to open their own probe, said Michael Moore, the U.S. attorney whose district includes Valdosta.

"This is about getting to the facts and the truth, and we want the Johnson family and the community of Valdosta to have confidence in the process," Moore said. "I am cognizant of time, and we continue to move the process along."

Moore urged anyone with information about Johnson's death to contact his office. Johnson's parents have come to believe their son's death was no accident, and the macabre discovery about their son's body has only deepened that belief.

"It's unbearable, just about," Jacquelyn Johnson said. "The only thing that wakes you up in the morning is to just keep pushing."

CNN's Mary Lynn Ryan contributed to this report.

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