Eight bodies found in vacant Fort Worth mortuary

07/15/2014 2:47 PM

07/16/2014 12:00 AM

Eight bodies were removed from an east Fort Worth funeral home Tuesday afternoon after police were called to investigate why bodies were left behind in the Johnson Family Mortuary after employees vacated the building.

“A total of eight bodies — human remains, aged from infant to adult, were found in the building in varying stages of decomposition, some quite advanced,” Sgt Raymond Bush, a Fort Worth police spokesman, said in a news release Tuesday evening.

Dondre Johnson, a co-owner of the mortuary, said a misunderstanding led to police being called.

Johnson said the building’s landlord arrived at the mortuary Tuesday morning to kick him out, but he wasn’t there. The landlord found the 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.

Kyle Smith, counsel for the Texas Funeral Service Commission, said the mortuary’s state license expires this month, and that the business is the focus of five separate commission investigations.

Johnson said that his business will eventually be vindicated and that misunderstandings with state and local officials have been worked out. The mortuary is still in business, he said.

“We will continue to serve our families,” Johnson said. “Here, or maybe somewhere else.”

No one arrested

Johnson Family Mortuary is owned by Dondre Johnson and his wife, Rachel Johnson, who is listed on a Texas secretary of state’s franchise tax document as the registered agent for the limited liability corporation.

They were asked to vacate the building at 1051 S. Handley Drive in east Fort Worth about two weeks ago, Bush said.

The building owner found the unattended bodies shortly before 8 a.m. Tuesday and called police, Bush said.

Homicide investigators executed a search warrant about noon on suspicion of abuse of a corpse, a felony, according to Bush’s news release.

Johnson said some of the bodies had been embalmed and were ready to be interred. Others were in caskets and ready to be moved. One was ready to be shipped to Nairobi, Kenya, Johnson said.

The bodies that had not been embalmed were covered in black garbage bags, Johnson said.

The building does not have a refrigeration system for the bodies, Johnson said, explaining that refrigeration is not required under state law.

“We are operating legally,” Johnson said. “If we had not been operating legally they would have taken me away in handcuffs.”

No one had been arrested by late Tuesday, Bush said. The investigation is continuing.

The medical examiner’s office is now responsible for identifying the bodies and notifying next of kin, Bush said.

Dondre Johnson’s twin brother, Derrick Johnson said, he was a part-owner but had not been present at the business in weeks but helps out as needed.

“All this caught me by surprise,” Derrick Johnson said. “I hate that the whole situation happened because it reflects on me, my family and the other family members who are involved, and our godfather who mentored us, Gregory Spencer.”

The twin brothers began working in Fort Worth in the 1990s under the direction of the late Gregory W. Spencer, according to the mortuary’s website.

The Johnson brothers will be back together in the funeral business soon and other business ventures are in the works, Derrick Johnson said.

“We are praying for the families as well as ourselves and we hate that this has happened,” Derrick Johnson said. “No weapon formed against us shall prosper and we thank all the haters for the free advertising.”

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