The parents of a Valdosta teen whose body was found two years ago inside a rolled-up gym mat were found guilty Wednesday of blocking courthouse access during a protest related to questions over their son’s death.
Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, along with five other family members, received a one-year suspended sentence, avoiding jail time and fines. In a statement, Jacquelyn Johnson said she and her husband “would go to jail for our child. We’ll even die for our child.”
“Wouldn’t any parent do the same?” she said.
The family’s protest, held in April 2013 outside the Lowndes County Courthouse, was designed to pressure the local sheriff’s office to release the investigative file of their 17-year-old son’s death, ruled an accident by local and state law enforcement. The Johnsons’ attorney, Chevene King, noted that Kendrick’s file was released the following week.
Earlier this month, the parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging an unnamed female lured their son into the old gym at Lowndes High School where he was fatally beaten by two brothers, whose names are being withheld because they were juveniles at the time. The brothers were acting at the behest of their father, FBI agent Rick Bell, according to the suit, which seeks $100 million in damages.
Virtually everyone — including the GBI, local law enforcement and school officials — involved in the investigation into the teen’s death conspired to protect the brothers, the Johnsons allege.