New lawsuit alleges same conspiracy in Valdosta gym mat death

Kendrick Johnson,17, was found dead inside his high school’s gym in January 2013. (FAMILY PHOTO)

Kendrick Johnson,17, was found dead inside his high school’s gym in January 2013. (FAMILY PHOTO)

The parents of Kendrick Johnson, facing a court order to pay the attorneys’ fees of parties named in a wrongful death lawsuit they withdrew earlier this year, have filed new legal action pushing the same massive conspiracy that already threatens to cost them nearly $1 million.

A hearing on how much Kenneth and Jackie Johnson will be forced to pay lawyers for defendants — including Brian and Branden Bell, whom they allege killed Kendrick — is scheduled for Tuesday and will likely last through the week.

Kendrick Johnson’s body was discovered in a rolled-up mat on Jan. 11, 2013, in the old gymnasium at Lowndes High School; local and state investigators concluded the 17-year-old died accidentally.

The Johnsons have never accepted those findings, and in their latest suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court, they continue to point the finger at the Bell brothers, alleging they, along with at least one other accomplice, “violently assaulted” Kendrick, resulting in a fatal injury.

According to the suit, the Bells then notified their father, FBI agent Rick Bell, who, along with Lowndes County’s sheriff and school superintendent, “entered into an agreement … to illegally cover up the true cause of death.”

The conspiracy even extends to School Superintendent Wes Taylor’s two daughters, who, the lawsuit claims, were enlisted to discover Johnson’s body.

“We will not let them silence us about our son’s murder,” Jackie Johnson told radio talk show host Roland Martin on Monday. “I know my son wouldn’t have tried to crawl into the mat.”

But as has been the case all along, the Johnsons have presented little more than innuendo to support their claims about what happened to their son. Kenneth Johnson admitted as much in sworn testimony, according to court documents.

Two months ago, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it was unable to “prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone or some group of people willfully violated Kendrick Johnson’s civil rights or committed any other prosecutable federal crime.” That admission followed an investigation spanning nearly three years.

Still, the conspiracy persists.

“We’re going to take this case all the way through,” Jackie Johnson said Monday. “We’re going to keep pushing. We’re going to find out exactly who killed Kendrick Johnson.”

Paying for it may be another matter. They are staring a $900,000 debt in the face, if Lowndes Superior Court Judge Richard Porter orders them to pay the full amount requested by the defendants named in the first wrongful death suit.

A GoFundMe page set up to help pay those attorneys' fees had, as of 2:30 p.m. Monday, received no donations.