Killer Gym Mats in History

A family fun road trip destination

A family fun road trip destination

In 1971, prisoners at the Old Idaho Penitentiary were angry about such conditions as overcrowding, and dead rats in the water pipes. They burned down the prison bakery and the Social Services building, which used to be the hospital. Three convicts were stabbed “for various reasons” by other inmates, and one was also beaten with a pipe:

Bill Butler died and was found rolled up into a gym mat in the Multi-Purpose Building.

In 1993, in Shinjo, Japan, a 13-year old boy was killed at his school, during an ordinary class day. (It was January 13, very close to the January 10 day of Kendrick Johnson’s death two decades later. Is there something in the stars that causes a young male to die in this particular way, every 20 years? The similarities are uncanny.) A gang of kids beat Yuhei Kodama and left him to die of suffocation, in a closet, upside down in the center of a rolled gym mat. John E. Woodruff wrote,

Four hours later, too late to save him, teachers spotted two feet sticking out of the top of the roll.

Seven boys admitted to assaulting the victim and wrapping him in the gym mat. But they soon recanted their confessions, and nobody else would say anything. The crime briefly focused the world’s attention both on Japan’s deeply ingrained culture of bullying, and on an equally impenetrable and unchallengeable code of silence. For the New York Times, David E. Sanger wrote,

…the town has closed ranks… rumors are rampant about parents warning their children to say nothing about what they saw, for fear they will become suspects and ruin their chances to get into the right schools.

So, now we know that 7 adolescent males are capable of stuffing a schoolmate into a rolled-up mat, or, more likely, wrapping him in the mat; and moving it to a vertical position with the victim confined upside-down. There was another strange occurrence. Woodruff says the police “took a step almost unheard-of in Japan. They publicly accused the principal and several teachers of trying to cover up bullying even after the fatality.” So, that can happen.

Many children witnessed the bullying on the day Yuhei Kodama was murdered, and the months of daily torment that led up to it – a large number, described by one journalist as “dozens” and by another as “scores.” Since one score equals 20, that would seem indicate that, at minimum, 40 people should have come forward as witnesses. Instead, none testified.

This is mentioned in response to critics of the “Justice4KJ” activists. Trollish types scoff at the idea that Kendrick Johnson might have been murdered, because of the numerous people who would have to remain silent. But, quite obviously, a large number of complicit people are capable of remaining silent. It wouldn’t be the first time. compiles information on the wrongful deaths (whether acknowledged as such, or not) of people with disabilities, in places where they should have been sheltered and protected. Here we learn that on September 6 of 1993, the life of 31-year-old Mardee Crumpler was taken at a hospital in Delaware. She died of asphyxiation, having been “rolled in gym mat and suffocated.” This happened at the Stockley Center, described as “the state’s facility for the mentally retarded.” According to the Star-Democrat,

Ms. Crumpler died as she was being held in a mat, with one staff member lying on her torso and another holding her legs. Prior to being restrained, Ms. Crumpler had supposedly been verbally aggressive.

your child my child
Mardee Crumpler’s murder occurred 8 months after Yuhei Kodama was killed. However… a British newspaper, The Independent, published a story about the Japanese boy’s death on August 27. Written by Terry McCarthy, it was titled “Wall of silence over pupil’s death in gym” After a 6-month investigation, an unappealable ruling had been made, and the case of Yuhei Kodama’s wrongful death was closed with no indictments. (In 2004, the bereaved parents won a civil suit, and the 7 boys involved in their son’s death were ordered to pay a combined 57 million yen. Their claim for damages against the Shinjo Municipal Government was rejected.)

The point is, that news came out just 10 days before Mardee Crumpler was smothered to death in Delaware, where a Stockley Center employee was charged with mistreatment and neglect. Here is the question – is it possible that the caregiver at the state hospital read The Independent? Did a TV news program pick up the story? Is it possible that the murder of Mardee Crumpler was a copycat crime?

Previous Impressions

This may seem like a digression, but stay with me. Remember Casey Anthony, the Florida woman who was tried in 2011 for killing her 2-year-old daughter Caylee, and acquitted? A story called “Cops, prosecutors botched Casey Anthony evidence” tells how the child’s body was found with duct tape on the mouth, and the authorities called it “death by undetermined means.” In 2011, mama Casey was found guilty of nothing more than telling some fibs to the police. But then, a news organization got hold of Ms. Anthony’s computer hard drive and found that the authorities had only looked at a tiny bit of her browser history, and among the 98% of it they hadn’t looked at was an internet search for “foolproof suffication” on the day her daughter died.

It is tempting to wonder whether any young person at Lowndes High School ever heard, in some way, about how Yuhei Kodama died. Or whether any student there had ever been told, somehow, the horrifying fate of Mardee Crumpler. Did any Valdosta, Georgia family ever go on vacation and visit the Old Idaho Penitentiary? Did any of those kids collect Daredevil comic books? Confinement in an inverted position is, as the Daredevil page suggests, an awkward and embarrassing way to die. In the absence of 100% certainty about how Kendrick Johnson met his demise, all questions are worth asking.

About Pat Hartman

Before publishing the two books "Call Someplace Paradise" and "Ghost Town: A Venice California Life", my main project was "Salon: A Journal of Aesthetics. " I wrote extensively for "Scene," a monthly arts and entertainment magazine with a circulation of 25,000. Also proofread, sold ads, put together the music calendar and, for a couple of years, served as editor. Presided over a couple issues of the local NORML newsletter, as well as being featured speaker at chapter meetings. Wrote a complete screenplay; collaborated on another one; worked on a couple of scripts (additional dialog and general brainstorming) with an indie film producer. Booked the talent for a large music festival. Wrote, designed, illustrated and produced various catalogs and brochures for small businesses. Spoke at a high school as a panelist on Women in the Professions; was a featured speaker at the 1991 Women in Libertarianism Conference; presented public programs on "Success in One Lesson" and "The Bloomsbury Group: What's It To Us?" Created the website and wrote many politically-oriented pieces for
This entry was posted in Abominations, Education, Folly, Human Relationships, Kendrick Johnson, Law, True Crime and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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