(The Root) — In the months since the body of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson was found rolled up in a mat in the gymnasium of Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Ga., nothing has seemed to add up.
The initial explanation that investigators gave to Johnson’s parents, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, was that their son died in a freak accident: “falling headfirst into an upright mat and becoming trapped,” CBS News reports. When they asked for his buried body to be exhumed, they found even more pieces of the puzzle in a second autopsy report: His organs were found missing, replaced with newspaper.
According to CNN, the Georgia Bureau of Investigators claims that it returned the organs to the funeral home, but in a letter written to the Johnsons by funeral-home owner Antonio Harrington, the organs “were destroyed through natural process.”
Johnson’s family believes that he was killed, that he didn’t die by “positional asphyxia.” In their efforts to open a criminal investigation, CBS News is reporting that they have enlisted the services of Benjamin Crump, the attorney who was instrumental in getting a criminal prosecution for the death of Trayvon Martin earlier this year.
“This is a real-life murder mystery where these parents sent their child to school with a book bag and he was returned to them in a body bag,” Crump said in a phone interview with the Associated Press. “They brought me in to make sure this is not able to be swept under the rug in small-town Georgia and they never get justice for their child.”
The Johnsons’ request for a criminal investigation has been denied by the Justice Department, which said that there was insufficient evidence to support the investigation. Crump plans on working to change the official manner of death from accidental to homicide. According to CBS News, when asked how he would make that happen, Crump replied, “We’re going to have to look at getting the courts involved.” The announcement of Crump’s involvement came on what would have been Kendrick’s 18th birthday.
Read more at CBS News.