FSU withdraws Brian Bell’s offer

Lowndes High School linebacker Brian Bell

Lowndes High School linebacker Brian Bell

Florida State has withdrawn a scholarship offer to Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes High School linebackerBrian Bell, who was named in a wrongful death civil suit involving a classmate who was found dead in the school in 2013. Bell, who committed to the Seminoles after receiving a scholarship offer in January 2014, won’t sign with another school on Wednesday, according to his attorney, Brice Ladson of Savannah, Georgia. RELATED: Man indicted for lying in gym mat death case “Certainly, we hope he will sign with someone before the process is over,” Ladson said. “There is no one else that we can speak of at this time.” Last month, the parents of Kendrick Johnson filed a $100 million lawsuit against 38 defendants, including Bell, his brother and their father, Richard Bell, an FBI agent. Johnson, 17, was found dead inside a rolled-up gym mat in the Lowndes County High gym on Jan. 10, 2013. Brian Bell and his brother have not been charged with a crime. The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office ruled Johnson’s death a freak accident, saying he fell into the upright mat while trying to retrieve a tennis shoe and suffocated. An autopsy conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation confirmed the sheriff’s department’s cause of death. Over the past two years, Johnson’s parents and their attorney, Benjamin Crump of Tallahassee, Florida, have alleged that he was murdered. They had Johnson’s body exhumed to conduct an independent autopsy, and a private pathologist concluded that he died of blunt force trauma to the neck. The pathologist also discovered that Johnson’s organs had been removed and his body was stuffed with newspapers. The civil suit alleges that after Richard Bell encouraged his sons to attack Johnson, a female classmate lured him into the gym, where the two brothers fatally beat him and placed his body in the gym mat. The civil suit, filed in DeKalb County (Ga.) Superior Court on Jan. 12 on behalf of Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, also accused several officials from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Valdosta Police Department, Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department and Lowndes County School District of conspiring to cover up Kendrick Johnson’s murder. U.S. Attorney Michael Moore opened a federal investigation into the case, which remains open more than a year later. “The absurdity of this situation is just hard to overstate,” Ladson said. “This young man did nothing. There is no possibility he had anything to do with the tragic death of this young man. Yet, [the Johnson] family has not accepted that and believes someone killed him. They decided to pick on this young man. It’s just a real tragedy — all the way around.”

Man indicted for lying in gym mat death case

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. RELATED: FSU withdraws Brian Bell’s offer 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. Continue reading »