Crime

Embattled funeral home owner seeks delay in hearing

Dondre Johnson, a co-owner of a Fort Worth funeral home accused of leaving seven unattended bodies in various states of decomposition, asked the court to postpone his preliminary hearing, which was scheduled for Thursday.

Johnson, 40, and co-owner Rachel Hardy-Johnson, 35, his wife, each face seven charges of abuse of a corpse. Relatives of one of the deceased who went unburied have also sued the couple.

In an unrelated matter, Hardy-Johnson has been indicted on federal charges of food stamp fraud, theft of public money and theft of educational funds.

Abuse of a corpse is a misdemeanor that carries a one-year jail sentence. Michael Todd, Johnson’s attorney, said he asked that the hearing be delayed until Jan. 8.

It’s unclear when the judge will rule on the request.

“He has not entered a plea and has not been arraigned yet,” said Todd, who expects his client to plead not guilty. “We are presumed innocent. We are still talking to the prosecutors.”

Officials with the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office recovered eight bodies from the Johnson Family Mortuary at 1051 S. Handley Drive on June 15 after the building owner came to the business to evict the couple or collect delinquent rent payments.

The building owner, Jim Labenz, found eight bodies, seven of them badly decomposed. A Fort Worth homicide detective wrote in an arrest warrant affidavit that Johnson and Hardy-Johnson treated the seven corpses “in a seriously offensive manner.”

Johnson surrendered at the Tarrant County Jail in July, while Hardy-Johnson was arrested a day earlier at the couple’s Arlington home. They were released after posting bail of $10,500 each.

Hardy-Johnson, whose name appears in Tarrant County district clerk records as Rachel Jelanni Hardy, is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Monday. Todd is also listed as her attorney.

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