State Watch

Sheriff offers $500K of his own money for information after closing case of teen found in gym mat

A Georgia sheriff announced on Monday that he will offer $500,000 of his own money to anyone who has information regarding the case of Georgia teen Kendrick Johnson, who was found in a rolled-up gym mat in 2013, just days after closing the investigation into his death.

Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk announced Thursday that Johnson’s case would be closed and no charges would be filed with the release of a 16-page document detailing the investigation. Johnson’s family pushed back on the findings, saying that they believe the death of the 17-year-old was covered up.

“After the release of my synopsis of the Federal files on the Kendrick Johnson case, his parents have called me a liar and continue to state that Kendrick was murdered,” Paulk said in a news release, according to NBC News.

“Because of these statements, I am personally — with my own funds — offering a reward of one-half million dollars ($500,000.00) to anyone who comes forward with information that results in the arrest and conviction of a person for the alleged murder of Kendrick Johnson at Lowndes High School,” he reportedly added.

Johnson’s body was discovered in January 2013 rolled up in a wrestling mat in the high school’s gym. A police report at the time said his body was positioned head down with his feet visible at the top of the mat, which was standing vertically, NBC News reported.

Local investigators said that Johnson died after trying to retrieve his shoes from inside the mat, ruling his death accidental asphyxiation.

On Tuesday, Paulk said that Johnson’s tragic death was a “weird accident” and that he and two other detectives spent a year analyzing 17 boxes of files on the case before releasing the report last week. He added that the reward he is offering is “one last avenue” for the sheriff’s office to obtain information it previously may not have had.

“I’m willing to put up those funds to see if anybody comes forward with anything viable that might have been missed,” Paulk told NBC News on Tuesday. 

“I don’t really feel like there’s anybody out there with knowledge and from what I’ve seen — I studied all the camera angles and everything else — it was a tragic accident. But if somebody comes in with a different view we’re going to listen to them.” 

Tags Georgia Kendrick Johnson

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