Evidence Tampering in Kendrick Johnson Case?

Family believes that video footage was altered, and a "scathing" coroner's report expresses concern over compromised evidence.

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Kendrick Johnson

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The family of Kendrick Johnson, the young man found dead inside a rolled-up gym mat in his high school gymnasium, believes the video surveillance footage that a judge ordered released to them has been tampered with, CNN reports.

CNN also obtained what they are calling a "scathing report" written by the coroner in the Johnson case, claiming the evidence at the crime scene was compromised and information for his investigation was withheld.    

Authorities have claimed that the 17-year-old fell between mats trying to reach for a sneaker, but Johnson's family suspects that the boy was murdered. The family continue to desperately search for answers.

According to lawyers for the family, the video footage released to them is missing time codes and includes gaps and footage apparently from a mysteriously blurry and out-of-position camera that should have been able to pick up the exact spot where Johnson's body was found some 10 months ago, CNN reports.

In one example used by the Johnson family attorney, Chevene King, and shown to CNN reporters, a man seen walking away from the gym late at night suddenly disappears while other images shot at different times show people walking in the same location.

King also found images apparently from a camera that should have shown the exact location where Johnson's body was discovered, but the image was blurry and out of position, he said and CNN reports.

While King didn't accuse the authorities of tampering with the evidence, he noted that the camera footage was the latest odd occurrence in a string of oddities.

"We have had what I think is a series of events that causes you to raise the question, when does a coincidence stop being a coincidence," King told reporters Wednesday in Valdosta, Ga., CNN reports.

Attorneys for Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Pine and the Lowndes County High School say that the video that the family has is the raw footage and contains no edits.

New of potential video-footage tampering comes on the heels of CNN obtaining a report from the coroner's office through an open records request, which shows that the coroner believes the crime scene was compromised.

"I was not notifed in (sic) this death until 15:45 hours. The investigative climate was very poor to worse when I arrived on the scene. The body had been noticably (sic) moved. The scene had been compromised and there was no cooperation from law enforcement at the scene. Furthermore the integrity of the evidence bag was compromised on January 13, 2013, by opening the sealed bag and exhibiting the dead body to his father," wrote Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson in a report dated Jan. 22, CNN reports.

"I do not approve of the manner this case was handled. Not only was the scene compromised, the body was moved. The integrity (sic) was breached by opening a sealed body bag, information necessary for my lawful investigation was withheld," he said.

The U.S. attorney's office in Macon, Ga., opened an investigation into the case last week. That investigation was also prompted by federal prosecutor Michael Moore's review of evidence collected by both authorities and the family's own investigator, which concluded that "sufficient basis exists" to warrant a formal review of the facts, CNN reports.

Read more at CNN.

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