Five years after 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson was found dead in his high school gym, his parents have been ordered to pay the legal fees of the people they believe killed their son.
Because they failed to respond to appropriately to the dismissal of their appeal, Lowndes County Superior Court Senior Judge Richard Porter said Kenneth and Jackie Johnson have to pay $292,000 to the people they accused of covering up their son’s death.
“As of this date, March 21, 2018, there has been no response by Plaintiffs to the motion to dismiss and no transcript filed in any of those cases,” Porter wrote on court documents.
In 2013, Kendrick was found wrapped in a wrestling mat in the gymnasium of Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation ruled Kendrick’s death an accident and said he died of positional asphyxia after climbing into the mat to look for his shoe and getting stuck. The teen’s parents, however, believed he was killed by brothers Brian and Branden Bell and accused local officials and the FBI of covering it up.
Despite the unusual nature of the teen’s death, the Department of Justice looked into Kendrick’s case and found there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue criminal charges.
“After extensive investigation into this tragic event, federal investigators determined that there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone or a group of people willfully violated Kendrick Johnson’s civil rights or committed any other prosecutable federal crime,” the 2016 report read.
The Johnsons were sued for $1 million in defamation damages and $850,000 in fees, and were recently ordered to pay nearly $300,000 in legal fees to a dozen individuals. Still, their focus remains on their son.
“I don’t care where I go nor what I do I can not stop thinking about my baby #kendrickjohnson,” Jackie Johnson wrote on Facebook. “This is so messed up on so many levels. The pain our family has to go through and none of the murders thugs are locked up! IT’S NOT OK ALL OUR KIDS ARE DEAD WITH NO JUSTICE.”