Teen indicted for false statements in Georgia homicide probe

Published 3:45 pm Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A grand jury in Georgia has indicted a man charged with providing false statements to investigators about the death of a 17-year-old high school student whose body was found wrapped in a gym mat at a local high school two years ago.

Dalton Chauncey, 19, was indicted Friday by the Lowndes County Superior Court grand jury for statements he made in July 2014 to the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office. At that time, Chauncey told investigators that he heard two people admit to causing Kendrick Johnson’s death.

Johnson’s body was found upside down in a rolled-up gym mat at Lowndes High School in January 2013. Autopsy results ruled Johnson’s death accidental. His parents insist that their son was a victim of foul play.

The indictment of Chauncey is the latest turn in a case that has seen Johnson’s parents and other family members convicted of interfering with government property and spawned a $100 million civil lawsuit.

Chauncey reportedly told investigators he only knew the first names of the individuals he claimed admitted to causing Johnson’s death. He also provided the full name of another person he said was present during the alleged conversation. However, investigators were unable to verify those claims, and Chauncey later admitted to making up the conversation, according to sheriff’s reports obtained by the Valdosta Daily Times.

In late January, Johnson’s parents, Kenneth and Jackie Johnson, were convicted of misdemeanor charges connected to an April 2013 protest at the Lowndes County Judicial Center. Along with five other family members, the Johnsons were convicted of blocking access to the main entrance of the building and a judicial wing hallway. Each defendant received a one-year suspended sentence.

The Johnson family has also filed a civil lawsuit naming 38 people that they accuse of either causing Kendrick Johnson’s death or covering it up. The suit, filed Jan. 12 in DeKalb County Superior Court, accuses a local FBI agent, Rick Bell, of having his two sons attack Kendrick Johnson with the help of another Lowndes High School Student and two other unnamed individuals. The Johnsons are asking for $100 million in damages from Bell, his sons and the other individuals.

Other defendants named in the suit are members of the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, the Lowndes County School system, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Valdosta-Lowndes Regional Crime Lab, the City of Valdosta and other local agencies.

Jim Elliott, an attorney for Lowndes County, said the allegations are unfounded and lack any basis in law or fact.

A trial date for the case has yet to be set.

Information for this story was reported by the Valdosta (Ga.) Daily Times.