'Law & Order: SVU': True Story Inspired 'Dare' Case

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit told a story about a tragic death and unapproved organ harvesting on Wednesday night, and we think we found the real life story that inspired the case.

The episode, entitled "Dare," sees a young girl tragically dying in a gymnasium. Then without parent consent, a surgeon at the hospital harvested her organs to use on other children.

The case echoes a real life incident from 2013 in Valdosta, Georgia, where a young man died in a high school gym and questionable things happened to his organs.

CNN reports on Jan. 11 of that year, Kendrick Johnson was found dead inside a rolled-up gym mat in the Lowndes High School gymnasium. The initial autopsy claimed his death was accidental asphyxiation, implying he fell into the mat.

Johnson's family did not buy that reasoning and ordered an independent autopsy.

When the independent private pathologist began the second autopsy, he discovered Johnson's organs were nowhere to be found. Instead, his body was stuffed with newspaper.

Suspicion then turned to Harrington Funeral Home in Valdosta, Georgia, but the insisted they did not take or destroy the organs. They instead placed the blame on the GBI.

At the time, the funeral home owner Antonio Harrington said the organs "were destroyed through natural process" and "discarded by the prosecutor before the body was sent back to Valdosta."

However, the GBI says they sent the organs with Johnson's body.

"The organs were placed in Johnson's body, the body was closed, then the body was released to the funeral home," GBI spokeswoman Sherry Lang told CNN.

Johnson's family has filed a civil suit against the Harrington Funeral Home for negligence and intentional mishandling of a corpse.

Outside of the organ drama, the independent autopsy concluded that Johnson died from blunt force trauma. However, no criminal charges were ever filed in the case.

A U.S. DOJ representative said at the time, "After extensive investigation into this tragic event, federal investigators determined that there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone or some group of people willfully violated Kendrick Johnson's civil rights or committed any other prosecutable federal crime."

While there are many variations from Wednesday night's SVU case, it is clear the circumstances surrounding Johnson's death served as writers' inspiration.


Law & Order: Special Victims Unit airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.

Photo Credit: NBC / Michael Parmelee