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Man indicted for lying in gym mat death case

November 18, 2019
Kendrick Johnson was found dead in a rolled-up gym mat at Lowndes High School on January 10, 2013.
Kendrick Johnson was found dead in a rolled-up gym mat at Lowndes High School on January 10, 2013.

(CNN) —A Lowndes County, Georgia, grand jury has indicted a man on a felony charge of making a false statement to investigators in connection with the 2013 death of Kendrick Johnson.

According to incident reports released to CNN after an Open Records Act request, Dalton Ray Chauncey told neighbors he'd overheard two students at Lowndes High School in Valdosta discussing their involvement in the 17-year-old's death.

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Chauncey was arrested August 6. His mother, Michelle Chauncey, told CNN that her son is bipolar and is being used by the sheriff's office as a "fall guy."

"They have literally slandered my child, and I don't appreciate that," his mother said in an August phone interview.

Dalton Ray Chauncey, 20, was indicted Friday.

Johnson's body was found inside a rolled gym mat at Lowndes High School in January 2013. Sheriff's investigators determined there was no evidence of foul play and closed the case in May 2013. However, Johnson's parents believe their son was beaten to death. They hired an independent pathologist, who found "unexplained apparent nonaccidental blunt force trauma" to the teen's neck and concluded the death was a homicide.

Chauncey told investigators two boys at the school wanted to rough Kendrick up, but they took it too far.

According to the arrest report, Chauncey gave deputies only the first names of those two boys. Investigators interviewed one student with a name matching Chauncey's claim. That student denied having the conversation.

Investigators say they were unable to locate any student with the second name Chauncey gave them.

Lowndes County investigators questioned Chauncey about inconsistencies in his statement July 23, according to investigative records.

According to the reports, "Chauncey admitted he had fabricated the story while at the home of friends in order to boast." The students he claimed had admitted involvement in Johnson's death "do not exist," the report said.

Chauncey's mother said in August her son's story is true, but he told investigators he'd made up the story, hoping they'd end the questioning. She told a detective twice that her son had mental issues, she said, adding that she felt her son should not have been interviewed alone.

"He's bipolar. His comprehension level is not like ours," Michelle Chauncey said. "He's a good-hearted boy. He just gets screwed over a lot."

According to an incident report, sheriff's investigators asked Dalton Ray Chauncey to take a polygraph test July 29. He declined and told a detective "it was all over because he made it all up and it was a lie," according to the report.

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