Johnstown police find improperly stored bodies at funeral home

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JOHNSTOWN — City police said they discovered three improperly stored, decomposing bodies at the Ehle-Barnett Funeral Home after executing a search warrant Friday.

Police, in a news release late Saturday, said the funeral home on North River Street was not properly registered with the state at the time the bodies were discovered and that its funeral director, Brian M. Barrett, had a suspended funeral director’s license since the end of last November. The license is required to carry out funeral practices in the state.

Two of the bodies were found in a garage behind the funeral home, where they were kept “for a substantial amount of time,” according to the release. “The remains were not stored in a temperature controlled location and were not cared for in any manner,” police said.

The identification of the human remains is being handled by the Fulton County Coroner’s Office in conjunction with the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Unit.

“The Fulton County Coroner’s Office and the Johnstown Police Department will be reaching out to families of the persons recovered as they are formally identified,” police said in the news release. “The investigation is still ongoing and charges are pending.”

The news release detailed the discovery and investigation of the bodies, which stemmed from a complaint from a family on Jan. 10 who police said had contracted cremation services with the Ehle-Barnett Funeral Home but then had been unable to contact Barnett, the business’ owner, for several weeks.

Over the course of a four-day investigation, the Johnstown Police said they determined “with the assistance of the New York State Bureau of Funeral Directors” that Barnett’s license to practice as a funeral director was suspended in late November 2021, and that the Ehle-Barnett Funeral Home was “not a licensed funeral firm.”

“As such, Brian M. Barnett was not allowed to conduct any funeral services and the Ehle-Barnett Funeral Home could not store or handle any deceased persons,” police said. The news release did not provide a reason for why Barnett’s license was suspended and Barnett did not return phone calls or social media messages seeking comment.

Police said after they received the initial complaint on Jan. 10, they made multiple attempts to contact Barnett by phone and in person, but at first were unable to do so until Barnett called them to explain that, “he still had the human remains at the funeral home and no services had been completed in several weeks.”

The Johnstown Police were then able to obtain from Barnett the remains of the person that the original complaint against the business was based upon. The remains were handed over to the A.G. Cole Funeral Home for proper services.

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