Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk announced on Friday that police have obtained an audio file with a confession connected to the death of Kendrick Johnson, a 17-year-old whose body was found rolled up in a gym mat eight years ago, according to Fox 5.

The death was initially ruled an accident by police but Johnson’s family and friends at Lowndes High School said he was killed by another student with who he had an issue with. 

Earlier this month, police said they would be reopening the case following a massive public campaign for officers to take a closer look at what happened. 

Paulk told Fox 5 that Johnson’s mother, Jacquelyn Johnson, got a recording of a suspect admitting to killing the teen and handed it over to investigators. 

“They had a recording that they actually purchased from someone who said that it would be valuable as far as saying who possibly had committed the crime and change their situation,” Paulk told the local news outlet. 

“If it’s a hoax, it’s a very, very cruel hoax to do to Mrs. Johnson,” he added, explaining that police will now verify whether the file is legit and how it was obtained.

As Blavity previously reported, those around Kendrick have long disagreed with the notion that the 17-year-old’s death was accidental.

“My son got into an altercation and it led up to his death,” Jacquelyn told ABC 27. 

Private autopsies done by doctors hired by the family have shown that Kendrick suffered “unexplained, apparent non-accidental blunt force trauma” and a private pathologist said the teenager died from blunt force trauma to his neck, as Blavity previously reported

Those around Kendrick have accused Brian Bell, another teen at the school who was allegedly angry because Kendrick slept with his girlfriend. 

A Change.org petition states that Bell’s father, who works for the FBI, helped doctor video footage from the school.

CNN has since corroborated the assertion that video footage from the school on that day and time has been edited. 

“Both Brian Bell and Ryan Hall, who is Brian Bell’s friend, had met Kendrick Johnson in the gym, and then Brian Bell killed Kendrick Johnson. Brian Bell has also stated that he killed Kendrick Johnson multiple times over the phone,” a petition read. 

“According to the second statement, Branden Bell allegedly said that Brian Bell had told Ryan Hall that if he did not keep quiet and help him move Kendrick Johnson’s body, his father, who is Rick Bell who is a retired FBI agent would make sure that he would pay for it,” the petition explained. 

The petition alleges that Bell has admitted multiple times that he killed Kendrick after the two fought over his girlfriend and that he threatened others to keep quiet about it. 

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