“Damn I wanna fight so many niggas,” Chris Martin* tweeted on March 21, 2013.
Two and a half months earlier on January 10, 2013, 17-year-old Kendrick “KJ” Johnson was found dead in a six foot high, rolled up wrestling mat at Lowndes County High School, in the school’s old gym in Valdosta Georgia. Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation claimed he fell into the mat accidentally and died from positional asphyxiation. This, despite the fact that the mat had a fourteen inch diameter, while Johnson’s shoulders measured nineteen inches across.
According to private coroner Dr. William Anderson who performed a second autopsy, that’s not what happened to Johnson. In his report dated August 15, 2013, he writes:
“Cause of Death: Blunt force trauma, right neck, involving right mandible [jaw] and soft tissues, including the area of the carotid body [artery] consistent with inflicted injury.
“NOTE: Unexplained, apparent, non-accidental blunt force trauma: Further investigation is indicated to determine the etiology [how it happened] of the injuries.”
Dr. Anderson believes Johnson was murdered by one blow, like a karate chop, that caused his heart to stop. So does Beau Webster, the private investigator who works for the late teen’s family. He later identified brothers Chris and Clark Martin, who are White, as possible suspects. They, along with other alleged suspects Webster has identified, are now being investigated by special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Those agents are now on the ground in Valdosta, under the direction of Michael J. Moore, the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, who has opened a federal investigation into the case. Moore, who is known for his pursuit of justice, has promised to get to the truth.
“Sitting in my first block [class] looking at the chair KJ used to sit in,” Chris Martin tweeted on January 14, 2013, three days after KJ was found dead in the mat.
Three days after that, on January 17, Lowndes County sheriff’s detectives Ssgt Jack Winningham and Sgt. Michael Adams were interviewing students at Lowndes County High School. According to their report, “It was brought to Winningham’s attention [by students] that Johnson had been in an altercation on a school bus during a football game,” with Chris Martin.
According to Webster, Chris Martin had also fought Johnson a second time—and lost a second time. He was and is a minor. So the detectives then approached his father, Sam Martin, for permission to interview him. We have been able to has confirm that the elder Martin is an FBI agent. He refused to have his son interviewed by the sheriff’s detectives, instead referring them to his attorney.
That night, Clark, Chris’s older brother – also a minor at the time – tweeted this threatening missive.
“Who ever [sic] is talking all that shit about my little brother, they better watch where they step!”
As previously reported here, Det. John Marion followed up two weeks later on January 31, and got permission from either Sam Martin or his wife Susan to interview Clark and Chris. The police reports that EBONY.com has access to are redacted, so it is not clear which parent gave their permission.
“Clark Martin stated that he was in the twelfth grade and had second block gym. Clark stated he did not know Kendrick Johnson, and did not speak to him. Clark also stated that during his second block gym on January 10, 2013, he was in the weight room,” it says in the police report.
Clark Martin did know Johnson because he knew that he and his brother fought twice. Clark, however, did not account for his time during the fourth block, when Johnson went into the old gym for the final time.
Chris Martin had been present during his brother’s interview and listening carefully. He then volunteered the following information to the detectives.
“He [Chris] stated that he was in the tenth grade and had previously been in third block gym with Kendrick Johnson last semester.”
He said nothing about the fights the two boys had, nor what Beau Webster had discovered during his investigation, that he and Johnson had prior animus going back at least two years. Even more telling, Chris Martin clearly implied that he was not, then, in any classes with Johnson. So how could he tweet on January 14, “Sitting in my first block looking at the chair KJ used to sit in.”
How would Chris know that if he wasn’t in class with Kendrick Johnson? And if he was – the school’s class roster would prove this – why did he not tell the detectives? Further, Chris and Johnson were teammates on the school football team, which he also did not tell the detectives. According to the police narrative, Chris then gave a statement that was not included in the police files that we obtained.
Establishing a timeline is all important in a murder case because it accounts for not only the whereabouts of the suspects during the crime, but also the time the time of death. Johnson disappeared after the third block at the high school. While it has been widely reported that he entered the gym at 1:09PM, this does not appear to be the case.
According to police files, “Detective Priddy spoke with Lieutenant Stryde Jones and advised him that the surveillance video showed Kendrick Johnson entered the old gym at approximately 1:09PM andthat the time on the surveillance system is not accurate.” [Emphasis mine]
Per the Lowndes County High School website, third block ends at 1:23PM. Since Johnson attended his third block class, and it would have taken him a few minutes to walk to the old gym, he would have went into the gym sometime around 1:30PM. Where, then, were Chris and Clark Martin at that time?
“Detective Priddy obtained a copy of the surveillance video from the old gym to include the cameras inside the gym, the cameras in the hall way [sic] of the gym and the exterior entrance to the gym. The copy of the surveillance video was placed into propery evidence,” it states in a January 14, 2013 police report. Why, then, are there no images on that video of KJ’s last moments of life?
During July 2013, as Dr. Anderson prepared his report on KJ’s second autopsy, that would show he was murdered, Chris Martin retweeted the following from a friend.
“Black kills black, it’s gang, black kills white, it’s rarely seen in the news, white kills black, it’s a hate crime and the whole world hears.”
Fred Rosen is a veteran investigative reporter and true crime author, whose current books Bayou Blue and Lobster Boy are available at Amazon Kindle
[KENDRICK JOHNSON] Tweets from Possible Suspects Raise Eyebrows – News & Views – EBONY.
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