Chief medical examiner stands by accidental death ruling in Kendrick Johnson case

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — The Georgia Chief Medical Examiner is standing by his agency's ruling that a high school student's bizarre death was a freak accident.

Some people, including 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson's parents, believe his death was intentional.

Dr. Kris Sperry told Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne that he's willing to stake his reputation on the controversial case.

"Is it possible Kendrick Johnson's death was a homicide?" Winne asked Sperry.

"No. It is not," Sperry answered. "I'd stake my reputation on the findings that the doctors in my office find every single day."

Sperry said even before Johnson's death near Valdosta drew national attention it drew his attention and he consulted with Dr. Maryanne Gaffney-Kraft at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Macon crime lab on the how death occurred.

Reportedly, the young man's body was found rolled up in a wrestling mat at Lowndes High School.

"I believe that Kendrick lost a shoe that fell down in the center of this mat. He went down to try to get it ... (and) had his arms extended trying to reach down and slipped and could not get out," Sperry said.

Sperry says toxicology tests at the state crime lab by GBI headquarters and DNA testing did nothing to alter the state's conclusions.

This week, Johnson's parents spoke out.

"We want to know what happened," said Jacquelyn Johnson, Kendrick's mother.

"I don't blame them at all for trying to find what has happened to their son," Sperry said.

"The surveillance video will tell us exactly what happened," said Kenneth Johnson, Kendrick's father.

Sperry indicated a GBI agent has reviewed school surveillance video and it shows nothing involving the wrestling mats.

"The GBI would have absolutely no motive to cover up anything," Sperry said.

Sperry told Winne he's reviewed a consultant's report on Kendrick's exhumed body suggesting blunt-force trauma was to blame. Sperry said no way.

"This death, unfortunately, was really a very tragic accident," Sperry said.

Sperry said the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office is the lead agency on the case and the GBI's role was to provide medical examiner and crime lab services as it does in thousands of cases each year.