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November 1, 2013

Prosecutor reviewing facts in Ga. gym mat death

MACON — A federal prosecutor said Thursday that he is conducting a formal review of facts and evidence in the death of a teenager whose body was found inside a rolled-up wrestling mat in his high school gym.

U.S. Attorney Michael Moore said that if he uncovers sufficient evidence to warrant a criminal civil rights investigation into the death of Kendrick Johnson he will ask the FBI to conduct it.

"I will follow the facts wherever they lead. My objective is to discover the truth," Moore said.

Moore said he's reviewing a previous investigation by a sheriff's office and two autopsies done on Johnson, along with photos, videos and other evidence and information. He said he's met with investigators and the attorneys for Johnson's family.

"I am committed to doing everything in my power to answer the questions that exist in this case, or as many of them as we can," Moore said.

The 17-year-old's body was found Jan. 11 stuck in an upright mat in the school gym after his parents reported him missing the night before. Lowndes County sheriff's investigators concluded Johnson died in a freak accident, but his family insists that someone must have killed him.

An attorney for the Johnsons applauded Moore for taking a closer look.

"We have to solve this murder mystery and we think the federal government's intervention is one step closer to solving this mystery," said attorney Benjamin Crump.

David S. Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice in Miami, said it's relatively unusual for federal authorities to go in and review an investigation once a local jurisdiction has closed it.

"There must be something in the information that was provided to him that led him to believe he needed to take another look at it," he said of Moore. "There must have been something that didn't pass the smell test."

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