‘Kendrick didn’t deserve this.’ Family hopes new audio clip could lead to Kendrick Johnson’s killer

LOWNDES COUNTY, Ga. — The family of a South Georgia teen found dead inside his high school gym believes they’ve found a potential confession.

Channel 2′s Tony Thomas was the only Atlanta reporter in Valdosta on Wednesday as Kendrick Johnson’s mother gave investigators an audio clip she says was recorded just a few days ago.

The sheriff in Lowndes County told Thomas that he hopes within 24 hours to know if the recording is real evidence or a scam being pulled on Johnson’s family.

The family said they paid a tipster cash for the audio. The sheriff confirms a voice on the recording says in part, “I was just young and stupid. Kendrick didn’t deserve this.”

For eight years, Jaquelyn Johnson has been fighting to prove her son Kendrick was killed inside the Lowndes County gym. His body found inside a wrestling mat. Authorities ruled the death accidental.

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Just days after authorities reopened the case and began going over 17 boxes of evidence from a closed federal civil rights investigation, a tipster came to the family with the audio.

“I feel like we made another baby step,” Jaquelyn Johnson said. “They thought they’d got away for eight years, everything had gone silent.”

“This is a smoking gun,” attorney Marcus Coleman said.

The actual tape is being kept confidential, but Johnson’s spokesperson read a transcript.

“‘I should have never done this. I was young and stupid. Kendrick didn’t deserve this.’ A couple seconds go by and he ends with a tearful, ‘They are going to catch me anyway,’” Coleman said.

“Can you understand the words very well?” Thomas asked Lowdes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk.

“Sure can, but there’s a lot of wind noise in it,” Paulk said. “We can do some voice analysis equipment we’ve got available and we’ve got their phone numbers.”

Kendrick’s mother left the short meeting longing for justice and full of hope that this is the break she’s prayed for all along.

“Just trying to take it all in. My eight years haven’t been in vain,” Johnson said.

The sheriff said he already has a team of investigators trying to analyze the audio and track down the person their told the voice belongs too.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is also being asked to help.