Society

Mortuary Owner Who Let Bodies Decompose Acquitted

| by Kathryn Schroeder

A Texas mortuary owner who was convicted of felony theft after eight bodies were found in gruesome condition at a funeral home has been acquitted of all charges and may be released from jail.

In 2015, Dondre Johnson was sentenced to two years behind bars for two counts of felony theft, KXAS reported.

Corpses of adults and infants had been found in Johnson’s funeral home in 2014 that were unrefrigerated and decomposing while covered in insects, according to WFAA. The families of the deceased were given ashes that were not those of their loved ones.

During the trial, Chris Ramsey, who runs a cremation service, testified that when he went to collect Opal Anderson’s remains from Johnson’s mortuary he found the decomposing body of a baby between her legs in a cardboard casket, KXAS reported.

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Johnson was found to have exhibited “unconscionable behavior” with remains at the funeral home, but after serving roughly half his sentence, the Second District Court of Appeals in Fort Worth has thrown out his conviction.

“Acquittal is a rare bird,” said Bob Gill, the attorney who handled Johnson’s appeal, according to WFAA. He added that the court’s decision is “pretty gratifying.”

The court found “no indication of deception other than the fact that we can assume the family members expected the funeral home to do its job in a workmanlike and timely manner, and it did not do so.”

“But there is no evidence of an intent never to perform the services,” the court continued.

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Alex Kim, a criminal defense attorney who represented Johnson at his jury trial, said his client has now been found not guilty.

Kim said that Johnson could return to the funeral business, but does not think that will happen.

"There would be nothing that would prevent him from doing that. Any disability from being a felon is now removed," Kim said.

Johnson said in October during an interview from jail that his employees were mostly to blame for what happened.

"I feel responsible for things that happened because I was the overseer," he said. "This is my passion, the funeral business."

The Tarrant County District Attorney's office does have the option to appeal the court’s decision.

"We believe the jury's verdict was correct, and we are evaluating our options to uphold that verdict,” Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson said in a statement.

Sources: KXAS, WFAA / Photo credit: WFAA

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