FORT WORTH — What started as a landlord dispute with a mortuary is now a strange criminal investigation involving possible abuse of a corpse.
The owners of a Fort Worth funeral home say a misunderstanding led police to search the business after multiple bodies were found unattended.
The owner of the building where the business operates said he told the owners to vacate about two weeks ago. The landlord went to the Johnson Family Mortuary on South Handley Drive in Fort Worth Tuesday morning at around 8 a.m. He found no employees, but did find several bodies inside the building, which has no refrigerated storage.
The landlord called police, officers got a search warrant, and located eight bodies, "aged from infant to adult, were found in the building in varying stages of decomposition, some quite advanced," according to Fort Worth Police spokesman Raymond Bush.
The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's office then removed eight bodies. That office is now working to identify them. If you believe you may be next of kin to any of the eight individuals, you're asked to call 817-920-5700, extension #5.
The mortuary is run by twin brothers Dondre and Derrick Johnson.
Tuesday afternoon, Dondre Johnson insisted remains were treated properly.
"I've been in business 25 years and I'll continue to serve the community," he said.
Police said the bodies were not refrigerated, but the building did have working utilities. The phone of the business was disconnected.
Dondre Johnson also said he had been paying rent, but that the landlord had a misunderstanding.
According to the Texas Funeral Services Commission, there are five complaints pending against the mortuary. A commission attorney said the state shut down a previous Johnson Brothers funeral home in 2010 for failing to pay $13,000 in penalties for violations.
However, some at the scene said they received good service when they used the funeral home.
On the business' Facebook page, where the last post was made in June of 2013, the business was rated 4.5 out of five stars, with 55 ratings.
The Better Business Bureau showed one complaint made over the last three years.
The BBB rated the business a "B-" citing:
- BBB does not have sufficient information to determine how long this business has been operating
- One complaint filed against business that was not resolved
- BBB does not have sufficient background information on this business
Dondre Johnson said he will open in another location, but records show his license expires July 30.
The funeral commission says the license is "flagged" because of complaints. That will require the operators to justify renewal.
Police made no arrests at the mortuary Tuesday.
"Questions about the status of the licenses of the Johnson Family Mortuary should be directed to the Texas Funeral Home Commission," Bush said. "Questions about the identities of those found and the process of notifying next of kin should be directed to the M.E.’s Office."