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State regulators find funeral home broke no law using newspaper to stuff body

Family of teen upset funeral home used newspapers to stuff his empty body cavity
Family of teen upset funeral home used newspapers to stuff his empty body cavity
Russ Bynum/AP/MSN

A funeral home in south Georgia came under fire when it used newspapers to stuff inside the body of a teenager. The state regulators found that the funeral home hadn’t broken any laws.

Kendrick Johnson, 17, of Valdosta was found dead January 22, 2013 inside a rolled up gym mat as his school, Lowndes High School. The mat had been propped up against the wall beside the bleachers.

After investigating, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation medical examiner determined that Johnson died from positional asphyxia and declared the death a freak accident. Positional asphyxia occurred after his body was stuck upside down and he was unable to breathe.

The Sheriff’s office investigators reached the conclusion that Kendrick Johnson dropped his sneaker into the rolled up mat and became trapped while he tried to reach the shoe. The family of Kendrick Johnson didn’t agree with the finding and are fighting to have their son’s death ruled a homicide.

After having his body exhumed, his family was outraged to find his body stuffed with newspapers and filed a complaint against the funeral home with the Georgia Board of Funeral Service. The funeral home contends that when they received the body from the medical examiner’s office, the internal organs were missing and used the newspaper to fill the void.

The medical examiner’s office insists that once they finished with the body of Kendrick Johnson they replaced the organs back inside his body before transporting it to the Harrington Funeral Home.

The family received a letter from the Georgia Board of Funeral Service alerting them to the fact that they found the Harrington Funeral Home had not broken any laws by using the newspaper. However, they did not that using the newspaper to fill the body cavity isn’t considered “the best practice.”

Harrington Funeral Home attorney Roy Copeland stated that the owners were “certainly happy with regulators’ for finding they had not done anything illegal. It is still unclear what happened to Kendrick Johnson’s internal organs.

Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson stated that “many of Johnson’s organs were deemed too badly decomposed to be preserved and had to be disposed of before the body was embalmed” according to the Valdosta Times.

Kendrick Johnson’s parents are pushing for their son’s case to be reopened. The U.S. attorney for that area of Georgia along with the FBI are reviewing the investigation into Johnson’s death.

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