Former Funeral Home Director Heading to Trial

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FORT WORTH -- The mortuary mystery is headed to court. It’s been over a year since a handful of families who entrusted the Johnson Family Mortuary in Fort Worth discovered the unthinkable. Their loved ones had never been cremated nor buried.

“Beyond careless, heartless,” Shynika Whitney told NewsFix last year. Her aunt, Deborah Whitney, was found at the funeral home. “I just can’t believe some of the stuff that’s in here. Heartbreaking. I just hope justice is served.”

Former owner Dondre Johnson's trial begins Tuesday. He's charged with abuse of corpse. His wife, Rachel, has a court date later in the month.

“I know the Johnsons feel really bad about how this has all turned about, and I know the families are really disturbed by this too. And it’s something that never should have happened, but as far as a criminal matter, it’s a different set of rules,” Attorney Alex Kim said in a phone interview.

He says this should be a civil case, not criminal.

“The outcome is not guilty. I don’t think the State Criminal Law is equipped or designed to handle situations like this,” he explained. “This law was designed for people that dig up graves, or if there’s been a murder to help hide the body, things like this. But if somebody is acting in their capacity as a professional, this really isn’t meant to be a criminal offense.  Any kind of professional, let’s say a doctor, an attorney, or a plumber, if something goes wrong, you’re first look shouldn’t be a criminal charge. It really should be toward a civil remedy.  That’s what lawsuits are for. That’s why you sue people because they didn’t do their job right.  Mr. Johnson’s very much interested in going to trial and showing that he did not commit any criminal act.”

Friday, the scene on Handley Drive looks totally different than it did July of 2014.  New funeral directors have stepped in with "Tree of Life." General Manager and Co-Owner Andrew Sims hopes what happened here will be a distant memory.

“The stigma in which many thought would be upon this building has not at all stifled our business,” Sims told NewsFix.  “The community has received us. They continue to call on us, each week we are continuously busy serving families which is what our goal was when we began this business.  I pray that God would have mercy on them and the families which were affected.”