DALLAS -- The man convicted of theft and abuse of a corpse after eight decomposing bodies were pulled from his Johnson Family Mortuary two years ago is finally opening up about what happened.
Dondre Johnson, 42, is more than half way through a two-year jail stint at Hutchins State Jail in south Dallas.
In an exclusive interview with WFAA this week, he discussed how and why his mortuary business began to struggle.
"The staff I had was incompetent," he said. "The one doing the paperwork ... they should've got the work done."
The longtime operator says he ultimately hired too many friends, and that their administrative errors led to the backlog of bodies and remains that were discovered by his landlord in July of 2014.
"I feel responsible because I was the overseer," Johnson said. "This was my passion, the funeral business."
Investigators testified at Johnson's theft trial that some infants' remains were "liquefied," and that conditions inside the facility at Handley Drive and East Rosedale Street were awful.
Johnson was found guilty in the theft trial, and also pled guilty to abuse of corpse charges a short time later.
But the man who became well known in Fort Worth's African-American community for his gospel-style services doesn't feel he was given a fair shake by the legal system.
"I feel like I should've gotten probation," he said. "It was the first time I've ever done anything like this in my life. I found out wrong. I found out you're gonna do time."
During trial, Johnson's defense team partly blamed his wife, Rachel Hardy-Johnson, for the bodies, saying she was the one legally responsible because she technically owned the business.
Dondre now claims he handled all day-to-day operations, and that she merely "did the books" and didn't fully grasp how bad things had gotten.
"She didn't do anything," he said.
Rachel Johnson is serving time in federal prison as part of an unrelated food stamp fraud case.
The couple had actually lined up a TV reality show about their business. That deal went under when authorities raided the mortuary.
Johnson says he spends most of his free time at Hutchins trying to spread the word of God.
"Every Saturday, I'm in church, in the choir, and I'm preaching every night in my pod," he said.
He acknowledged he may not be able to officially work in the funeral industry again but hopes to perhaps consult once he's released next year.
As for the eight families that never received proper care for their loved ones, Johnson says he can only ask for one thing.
"I ask that you forgive me even though you may never forget what happened in the past," he said.
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