A Georgia sheriff who recently closed the case of 2013 death of a teen has offered half a million dollars of his own money for any information leading to the arrest or conviction following a negative outcry.
Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk, who reopened the case of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson last year, concluded this week that his death was an accident and found no conspiracy in the case.
“After the release of my synopsis of the Federal files on the Kendrick Johnson case, his parents have called me a liar and continue to state that Kendrick was murdered,” Mr Paulk said in a news release Monday.
"Because of these statements, I am personally – with my own funds – offering a reward of one-half million dollars ($500,000.00) to anyone who comes forward with information that results in the arrest and conviction of a person for the alleged murder of Kendrick Johnson at Lowndes High School."
Johnson, 17, was discovered dead in the gymnasium of Lowndes High School on 11 January 2013 with his body rolled up in a wrestling mat.
A police report at that time said his body was found lying head down with his feet visible at the top of the mat, which was standing vertically.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation had said that Mr Johnson had died of accidental asphyxiation while reaching inside the mat for a pair of shoes.
The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department issued a 16-page report that said “federal investigators determined that there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone or some group of people wilfully violated Kendrick Johnson’s civil rights or committed any other prosecutable federal crime”.
He described his death as a “weird accident” while speaking to CNN.
He said the reward money is "one last avenue" for any information in the case that they might not be aware of, according to NBC.
"I’m willing to put up those funds to see if anybody comes forward with anything viable that might have been missed," Mr Paulk said in an interview with the station.
Following the release of the report, the teenager’s family reiterated that they believed that their son’s death was being covered up.
“I will fight as long as I have to uncover what exactly happened to Kendrick Johnson,” said, Kenneth Johnson, the teenager’s father, adding that they have no faith in Lowndes County.
“You can’t do an investigation with the same investigators who covered it up. They’re not going to uncover something that they covered up.”