Nightly News   |  October 12, 2013

What really happened to Kendrick Johnson?

The 17-year-old’s mysterious death in southern Georgia has some questioning if the boy’s death was a freak accident or murder. NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> kendrick johnson was only 17 years old when he died in january. his body was found the rolled up in a gym mat at his high school in georgia. the sheriff's office said it was a freak accident . the boy's parents say it was murder. tonight there are calls for action. gabe gutierrez reports.

>>> whether the school gym in georgia is a crime scene depends on who you ask. it's where 17-year-old kendrick johnson , a three-sport athlete, was found dead in january.

>> every parent deserves to know what happened to their child.

>> reporter: jacquelyn and kenneth johnson believe their son was murdered by a group of students, then stuffed in this rolled-up wrestling mat.

>> why did this happen to kendrick at school? why?

>> reporter: but the county sheriff and the bureau of investigation determine he died in a tragic accident. that he fell head first into the upright mat reaching for a shoe, got trapped and couldn't breathe.

>> reporter: based on the information we know now, the autopsy findings, our investigative findings, our case is closed.

>> reporter: the official autopsy did rule the death an accident. five months late er johnson 's family exhumed his body. a second pathologist said the death was due to blunt force trauma to the right neck.

>> we found the trauma in an area that was not previously looked at in the first autopsy.

>> reporter: in an odd twist dr. bill johnson discovered johnson 's organs were missing and his body was filled with newspapers.

>> a spokesperson said the agency stands by its team of medical examiners 100%.

>> reporter: others wonder whether the initial scene could have been more thoroughly investigated.

>> the cases has to be re-opened. there are too many questions being raised.

>> reporter: this week on what would have been his 18th birthday his parents hired the same civil rights attorney who represented the parents of trayvon martin.

>> these parents sent the child to school with his book bag . he was returned to them in a body bag .

>> reporter: they are pushing for the school to release more images from gym surveillance camera. so far the only angle made public doesn't show how johnson ended up in the mat leaving the family with more question s.

>> we're going to fight to the end. until we get justice for kendrick .

>> reporter: for many, a death so