Texas - A Texas funeral home owner whose business was to be featured in a reality TV show was convicted Wednesday of accepting money to care for bodies but failing to do so before the mortuary abruptly closed.
Deondre Johnson was convicted on two felony theft counts by a Tarrant County jury. He faced up to two years in state jail for theft. He's expected to be tried later on seven counts of abuse of a corpse in the same case.
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The Johnson Family Mortuary drew attention in June 2014 with the announcement of a planned reality TV show, about running a funeral home and dealing with death on a daily basis.
The business closed the following month due to nonpayment of rent. Investigators who later went through the mortuary found several bodies in advanced stages of decomposition, with some remains difficult to identify.
Johnson accepted payment then failed to provide services such as cremation, according to prosecutors. Johnson was responsible for making sure that the correct ashes were delivered to relatives. Johnson lied to some customers and gave them the wrong sets of ashes, according to prosecutor Sid Mody.
"Mr. Johnson was playing a Ponzi scheme with human flesh," Mody said during closing arguments.
Johnson, who did not testify, left the running of the mortuary to his wife, co-owner Rachel Hardy-Johnson, according to his attorneys.
"Rachel ran the show," said defense attorney Alexander Kim. "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."
Hardy-Johnson pleaded guilty in January to felony food stamp fraud and was sentenced in June to two years in federal prison. She also awaits state trial on charges of theft and abuse of a corpse.