Fort Worth detective describes nightmare inside mortuary

Posted Friday, Jul. 25, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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This report includes graphic descriptions.

FORT WORTH -- When Dondre Johnson, a co-owner of the Johnson Family Mortuary in east Fort Worth, talked to reporters on July 15, he said a misunderstanding with his landlord had led to police being called that morning.

The landlord arrived at the mortuary to evict him, but he wasn’t there, Johnson said. The landlord found bodies and called police.

“This is a funeral home and when you go into a funeral home, you can expect to find bodies,” Johnson said.

Not bodies decomposing like these, according to a Fort Worth homicide detective who wrote that Dondre Johnson and his wife, Rachel Hardy-Johnson, treated seven corpses “in a seriously offensive manner.”

In arrest warrant affidavits, the detective, summoned by patrol officers who responded to the landlord’s 911 call, wrote: “I noticed that the odor of decaying flesh could be smelled in the parking lot outside of the building” at 1051 S. Handley Drive.

Inside, detectives, a crime scene officer and investigators from the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office found:

• “Insect infestation and fly pupa … present on or near the corpses.”

• The remains of two stillborn children. “One of the children was skeletonized and the other was melted into the container.”

• A body in a casket was infested with insects and “was mummified.”

• Fluid was draining from bodies onto the floor. “Buckets had been placed under the bodies in an attempt to contain the fluids.”

• Of the eight corpses in the business, only one “appeared to have been properly cared for . … We later learned that this corpse was from a recent funeral and was being prepared for shipment to the family in Kenya.”

Dondre Johnson and Rachel Hardy-Johnson face seven charges each of abuse of a corpse, a Class A misdemeanor that carries a punishment of a year in jail.

According to the affidavit, Dondre Johnson told the detectives that the conditions in the mortuary “were not unusual” and that none of the bodies had been there for longer than four months. He said he and his wife own the funeral home but that she is in charge.

The abuse was, the detective wrote, “retaining custody of and storing the human corpse in an unrefrigerated building instead of delivering the said human corpse for proper burial or cremation.”

Dondre Johnson, 39, surrendered at the Tarrant County Jail on Saturday. Rachel Hardy-Johnson, 35, was arrested Friday at their Arlington home. They were released after posting bail of $10,500 each.

According to the affidavit, Dondre Johnson told the detectives that the conditions in the mortuary “were not unusual” and that none of the bodies had been there for longer than four months. He said he and his wife own the funeral home but that she is in charge.

Rachel Hardy-Johnson told investigators that she had been at the funeral home the previous Friday and had “smelled the stench … but was unaware of the presence of decaying corpses.”

“Rachel indicated that she had been absent from the business due to a recent childbirth and that Dondre was not good at keeping up with the necessary administrative paperwork needed to properly bury and cremate the corpses,” the affidavit said.

“She said that Dondre is more about the ‘pomp and circumstance’ and the ‘show’ associated with the funeral service and that this is what people call on him to do.”

At least one body had been at the funeral home since March 26, according to the medical examiner’s office.

Authorities have said the Johnson Family Mortuary was already under state investigation and its license was due to expire at the end of the month.

Five previous complaints involving the Johnsons have been filed with the Texas Funeral Services Commission and two are scheduled to be discussed at a hearing in Austin in September, a commission spokesman has said.

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752 Twitter: @mitchmitchel3

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