With New Lawsuit, Gym-Mat Death Case Gets Stranger

Kendrick Johnson's parents allege funeral home tried to 'interfere' in investigation
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 6, 2014 9:11 AM CST
With New Lawsuit, Gym-Mat Death Case Gets Stranger
Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson stand next to a banner on their SUV showing their late son, Kendrick Johnson, on Dec. 13, 2013, in Valdosta, Ga.   (AP Photo/Russ Bynum)

The latest in the mysterious death of a Georgia teen found in a rolled up gym mat last year: The parents of Kendrick Johnson are suing the funeral home that handled their son's body. They're alleging negligence and fraud, and claiming Harrington Funeral Home removed Kendrick's organs and replaced them with newspaper "in an effort to interfere" with the parents' investigation into his death, the AP reports. What actually happened to Kendrick's organs remains unclear. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation maintains the organs were returned to the body after it was autopsied, and before it was sent to the funeral home.

But the funeral home says the organs were missing when the body arrived, and a county coroner says many of the organs were too badly decomposed to be preserved and were discarded immediately after the autopsy. While filling a body with newspaper isn't a "best practice" for a mortician, it's also not illegal, the Georgia Board of Funeral Service said last month. "This lawsuit challenges the morally despicable, fraudulent, unlawful, and unfair business practices" of Harrington Funeral Home, which "intentionally, willfully, and secretly" violated Kendrick's remains, the lawsuit reads per CNN. (Read more Kendrick Johnson stories.)

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