published Saturday, January 11th, 2014

Family marks year since gym mat death of Georgia teen

Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson stand next to a banner on their SUV showing their late son, Kendrick Johnson, in Valdosta, Ga. in this Dec. 13, 2013, file photo.
Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson stand next to a banner on their SUV showing their late son, Kendrick Johnson, in Valdosta, Ga. in this Dec. 13, 2013, file photo.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

VALDOSTA, Ga. — The family of a south Georgia teenager found dead inside a gym mat gathered in a Valdosta park Saturday to mark the one-year anniversary of his death.

The body of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson was found Jan. 11, 2013, in the center of a rolled-up gym mat at Lowndes County High School.

People from around the country attended the service, said lawyer Benjamin Crump, who represents Johnson's family.

Despite pouring rain at one point, "they did not leave for an hour and a half while his parents paid tribute to the memory of their son, Kendrick Johnson, but also continued with the crowd to demand that the truth come out and we get justice for their son," Crump said by telephone after the service.

Sheriff's investigators concluded that Johnson fell into the mat while reaching for a shoe and was unable to escape. The teenager's parents insist someone killed their son. The U.S. attorney for middle Georgia is investigating the circumstances.

Among those who attended the memorial service was Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, said Crump, who also represented her in legal battles associated with the case. George Zimmerman was acquitted in Martin's shooting death.

"Sybrina Fulton was there to share support and advice with them because as we know she went through this same battle with losing Trayvon," Crump said. "We represented Trayvon's mother in that journey, so it was kind of eerie that they have to go on this terrible journey."

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