A Georgia teenager’s family is trying to uncover not just the reason for his death, but a funeral home’s bizarre decision regarding his organs.
According to CNN, an independent autopsy commissioned by 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson’s family revealed that his brain, heart, lungs and liver had been removed, with his body stuffed above the pelvis with newspaper.
“I’m not sure at this point who did not return the organs to the body,” pathologist Bill Anderson, who was hired by Johnson’s family, told CNN. “But I know when we got the body, the organs were not there.”
Johnson’s parents, Kenneth and Jacquelyn won a court order authorizing them to exhume his body about six months after he was found dead in January 2013. Authorities determined at the time that he died of suffocation after being trapped inside a gymnasium mat, but the couple has challenged those findings. Anderson’s report argued, however, that Johnson’s death was likely caused by “unexplained, apparent non-accidental, blunt force trauma.”
“We have been let down again,” Kenneth Johnson, told CNN regarding Anderson’s discovery. “When we buried Kendrick, we thought we were burying Kendrick, not half of Kendrick.”
A spokesperson for the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, which performed the first autopsy on Kendrick Johnson in January, told CNN that the agency followed standard procedure at the time.
“The organs were placed in Johnson’s body, the body was closed,” the spokesperson told CNN. “Then the body was released to the funeral home.”
Harrington Funeral Home, which had custody of the teen’s body for his embalming and burial, said in a letter to the Johnson family that his organs were “discarded by the prosecutor” before his body was sent to Harrington. The funeral home also told the family that the organs were “were destroyed through natural process.”
While authorities in Lourdes County, where the Johnson family resides, have refused to reopen the case, federal prosecutor Michael Moore told CNN his office is still deciding whether to open its own investigation.
“This is about getting to the facts and the truth, and we want the Johnson family and the community of Valdosta to have confidence in the process,” Moore told CNN. “I am cognizant of time, and we continue to move the process along.”
Watch CNN’s report on the controversy surrounding Johnson’s death, aired Wednesday, below.