The parents of a dead teenager are suffering a second blow after their son's autopsy revealed that his organs were removed and replaced with newspaper.
Kendrick Johnson was 17 years old in January when he died in an apparent accident. His body was found at a local gym. According to medical examiners, Johnson suffocated after getting stuck in a rolled-up gym mat.
Several months later, lingering doubt about the circumstances of Johnson's death led his parents to exhume his body for a second autopsy. Private pathologist Bill Anderson made the horrific discovery when he opened the body. "They stuffed him with newspaper like he was a garbage can inside his body. It's unbelievable," Anderson said.
Normally when an autopsy is performed, all of the internal organs are removed, examined and returned to the body for burial. In Johnson's case, the organs were never returned to the body. Instead, his torso and skull were stuffed with newspaper.
It remains unclear what happened to the organs or why they were not returned. The funeral home that prepared Kendrick's body for burial reportedly told the family the organs "were destroyed through natural process" and were "discarded by the prosecutor." But many questions remain unanswered.
Further compounding the horror, the second autopsy showed blunt force trauma to Johnson's neck, which led to the conclusion that the death was not accidental. This new evidence of foul play may cause Johnson's case to be revisited.
Johnson's parents are devastated by the revelations. "We have been let down again," his father, Kenneth Johnson, told CNN. "When we buried Kendrick, we thought we were burying Kendrick, not half of Kendrick."
"It's unbearable," Jacquelyn Johnson, Kendrick's mother, said. "The only thing that wakes you up in the morning is to just keep pushing."