Disturbing new details emerged Wednesday on the conditions of eight decaying bodies found in a Fort Worth funeral home with the release of arrest warrant affidavits for two of the mortuary's managers.
Police who went to the Johnson Family Mortuary on July 15, weeks after the landlord had evicted the business owners, found a gruesome scene, warrants showed.
Officers found evidence of insect infestation, as well as fly pupa on or near the bodies, according to those documents. One corpse was mummified in a casket, while another that appeared mummified was wrapped only in a sheet and left on a coffee table.
Two more of the decaying corpses were of children, one of them skeletonized and the other melted to a container.
U.S. & World
News from around the country and around the globe
More corpses were found on gurneys, with bodily fluids draining onto the floor and into buckets placed under them. A shop vacuum found nearby had apparently been used to try to remove some of the fluids. Other corpses were found in a garage area, where there was prevalent evidence of insect infestation. (Read the arrest warrant affidavit here.)
Only one of the eight corpses found appeared to have been cared for properly and was not severely decomposed, according to the warrants. That body was from a recent funeral and was being prepared to be shipped to Kenya.
The mortuary owners, Rachel Johnson, 35, and her husband Dondre A. Johnson, 39, were both charged with seven counts of abuse of a corpse.
Rachel was arrested July 18, while Dondre surrendered to police at about 2 a.m. July 19. Both were released after paying $10,500 bond each, or $1,500 for each count.
An abuse of a corpse conviction, a Class A misdemeanor, is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000 per count.
Investigators said the Johnsons intentionally or knowingly treated seven corpses "in a seriously offensive manner, namely by retaining custody of and storing the human corpse in an unrefrigerated building instead of delivering the said human corpse for proper burial or cremation."
The seven corpses officials say were abused were identified as the following people:
- Baby Girl Booker — DOB April 21, 2012 — DOD April 21, 2012
- Karen Pearl Jones — DOB Nov. 8, 1958 — DOD March 25, 2014
- Helen Jones — DOB Oct. 12, 1943 — DOD April 9, 2014
- Boy Desiree Williams — DOB Unknown — DOD May 1, 2014
- Deborah Whitney — DOB Unknown — DOD May 11, 2014
- Victoria Vasquez — DOB — Aug. 25, 1961 — DOD June 9, 2014
- Patricia Baptiste — DOB Unknown — DOD June 30, 2014
"Pomp and Circumstance": Mortuary Owners Describe Their Business
Dondre Johnson told police outside the mortuary on July 15 that he and his wife both owned the funeral home but that she was in charge, according to the affadavit.
He added that the above conditions were not unusual, saying that bodies belong in a funeral home and that the bodies hadn't been there longer than four months. He told police he was not licensed by any state agency and that he merely owns the funeral home.
About an hour after talking with Dondre Johnson, police spoke with his wife Rachel. She told them that she holds a license through the state funeral commission and was in charge of the business' administrative functions.
She told police she had been absent from the business recently, after having given birth, but had been at the mortuary only a few days before. She admitted to police that she smelled a stench but said she was unaware there were bodies inside the funeral home.
Rachel is quoted in the affidavit saying her husband is more about the "pomp and circumstance" and the "show" associated with conducting memorial services, and that he was not very good at keeping up with the necessary administrative paperwork needed to properly bury and cremate corpses.
"Intentionally Scamming Us": Family to Sue Over Woman's Decomposing Body
The pain runs deep for Maria Vasquez and her daughter, Elizabeth. Maria's mother Victoria — whose body police say was one of the seven left decomposing at the mortuary — was never actually cremated, even though she passed away more than a month ago.
"To find out that these people were intentionally scamming us and lying to us [hurts]," said Elizabeth Vasquez.
Elizabeth's grandmother was finally cremated Wednesday morning through the generosity of another funeral home.
"This big sigh of relief came out," said Vasquez. "Just knowing for a matter of fact my grandmother's wish [to be cremated] is coming through, and I'm going to get my grandmother back [in the form of ashes]."
The Vasquez family said they are currently looking for an attorney, because they plan to file a lawsuit against the Johnson family.
NBC 5's Johnny Archer contributed to this report.