Anxious families wait for news about Fort Worth mortuary corpses

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by TODD UNGER

Bio | Email | Follow: @toddWFAA8

WFAA

Posted on July 15, 2014 at 10:05 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 15 at 10:23 PM

Johnson Family Mortuary

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FORT WORTH — As Fort Worth police continue a criminal investigation into a Fort Worth mortuary, some families are now wondering if their loved ones were among the decomposing remains removed from the facility on Tuesday.

Lupe Mata said her family held a service last month for her sister, Victoria Vasquez, at Johnson Family Mortuary. She said they noticed some problems with the appearance of her body when they arrived for the service. 

"Her hair was slicked back with oil; she was already dark in the face. That wasn't’ my sister," Mata said.

She said the facility smelled, as if corpses were decomposing.

Mata said her family had agreed to help do some cleaning services for the mortuary in exchange for a discount on an urn. But some four-and-a-half weeks later, they haven't received Vasquez's remains, and now question if she was indeed cremated.

"We don't know," she said. "It's kind of awful not knowing and having to wait."

The owner of the building where the business operates said he told the Johnson's to vacate about two weeks ago. The landlord went to the facility on South Handley Drive around 8 a.m. Tuesday and found no employees...just unattended corpses that weren't refrigerated.

The landlord called police, officers got a search warrant, and located the remains of eight people, "aged from infant to adult, were found in the building in varying stages of decomposition, some quite advanced," according to Fort Worth police spokesman Raymond Bush.

Co-owner Dondre Johnson downplayed Tuesday's events, saying it was a misunderstanding with the landlord that simply escalated.

"I've been in the funeral service over 25 years, and I'm going to continue to serve our community," he said.

A number of people stopped by the mortuary to express support for the family, specifically Dondre and his brother.

Others who stopped by were emotional, saying they also feared their loved ones may have been left behind.

State records indicate there are currently five active complaints leveled against the mortuary.

Johnson said it wasn't unusual for funeral homes to have complaints filed against them.

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's office took custody of the eight corpses. That office is now working to identify them.

If you believe you may be next of kin to any of the eight individuals, you're asked to call 817-920-5700, extension 5.

E-mail tunger@wfaa.com

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