FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - A jury found him guilty, and now a former Fort Worth mortuary owner will have to serve time in prison for taking customers money and then leaving the bodies of their loved ones decomposing in a back room.
After being convicted of Theft, Dondre Johnson was sentenced to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine Thursday afternoon.
Johnson's defense attorney pleaded with the jury to give his client probation, so he could take care of his four children. Meanwhile, prosecutors insisted that jail time is the only acceptable punishment.
Jurors also heard graphic testimony from Chris Ramsey, who does cremations in the area. Ramsey told the courtroom that Johnson once dropped of a woman's body to be cremated and when the body bag was opened he found a baby's casket between her legs.
He said, "The baby was pretty well decomposed. It's been sitting out for a while - so there's no way that that baby... If he [Johnson] would have brought the baby over right then, if it had just died, it wouldn't have looked as bad as it did."
Ramsey said after discovering the dead child he immediately called Johnson, returned the body, and told him they wouldn't do business with him anymore.
On Wednesday it took the jury about an hour to convict Johnson of lying to and stealing from several families. Prosecutors say he accepted payments for cremations, while leaving bodies to decompose at the Johnson Family Mortuary.
Day one of the sentencing phase of the trial quickly came to a halt Wednesday, after a defense attorney had a family emergency. Johnson did not take the stand in his own defense.
Before the business closed, Johnson and his wife, Rachel Hardy Johnson, ran the family mortuary.
During the trial Johnson claimed he didn't mean to mislead anyone and his attorneys blamed his wife, saying she was the owner and operator of the business. "Rachel ran the show," defense attorney Alexander Kim said during the trial. "She's the one who signs the leases. She's the one who pays the bills. It stops with her. It's a family run business. But she's the boss."
In June, Rachel Hardy Johnson was sentenced to 21 months in prison for felony food stamp fraud. Both Johnson and his wife are also being prosecuted for misdemeanor abuse of a corpse charges. No dates have been set for those trials.
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