The brothers accused in a civil lawsuit of killing Kendrick Johnson have counter-sued the parents of the Valdosta teen whose body was discovered more than two years ago in a rolled-up gym mat.
Brian and Branden Bell, along with their father, FBI agent Rick Bell, denied the allegations contained in a wrongful death suit filed earlier this year by Kenneth and Jackie Johnson. In it, the Johnsons alleged an unnamed female lured their son into the old gym at Lowndes High School where he was fatally beaten by the Bell brothers at their father’s behest.
Last November, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the Bell boys had received notification from U.S. Attorney Michael Moore that they were targets of a federal grand jury’s investigation into Johnson’s death. That probe continues.
The Bells were cleared by local and state investigators who concluded Kendrick Johnson died accidentally. Subsequent testimony placed Branden Bell on a school bus headed to a wrestling tournament in Macon at the time Johnson was last seen alive, while surveillance cameras showed his younger brother Brian was in class, across campus.
“Since January 12, 2014, the Johnsons used others as their authorized agents to post messages on various social media, including Facebook, Twitter, blogs, instant messaging, and the like, that were defamatory of the Bells,” the counterclaim states.
Two weeks later, according to the countersuit, the Johnsons, along with persons sympathetic to their cause, repeated assertions that Brian Bell was a “psychopath” who “exhibited violent tendencies and a highly unusual appetite for fighting.
As a result, the Bells allege, Florida State University rescinded its scholarship offer to Brian, a highly touted linebacker.
“They have made similar statements to other colleges offering Brian Bell a scholarship, including the University of Louisville and Clemson University,” the counterclaim states.
Bell has yet to receive another binding offer to play college football.
The countersuit, alleging libel and slander, seeks $1 million in damages.