JOHNSTOWN, N.Y. (NEWS10) —News10 continues to follow the investigation into the Johnstown funeral director who is expected to be arrested any day now after human remains and decomposed bodies were found in his business.
Many customers of the Ehle Barnett Funeral Home have been questioning whether the remains returned to them really belong to their loved ones. News10 decided to take a closer look at the science of identifying remains.
Last week more than a dozen unmarked cremated remains and several bodies were found at the Ehle Barnett Funeral Home. Johnstown Police Chief David Gilbo says an arrest warrant has been signed for funeral director Brian Barnett. They also have a list of planned charges against him.
Johnstown police and the Coroner’s Office are working with the New York State Police Forensic Unit to identify the remains.
But Julie Pizziketti, Director of Biological Science of the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center says this can be very difficult to do.
“With our current technology, we were not able to get a useable profile because there’s such high heat that the actual tissue, bone, and teeth is just reduced to ashes.”
However, Pizziketti says there is hope if remains aren’t cremated.
“So, if we are able to get a profile from the remains, we can compare it to biological relatives to see whether our kinship analysis whether it’s consistent with it being the individual they believe it to be.”
“Even if DNA cannot be recovered from the remains there should be no question because the chain of custody still remains intact,” said Vincent Perniciaro.
Perniciaro is a funeral director at the Dufresne & Cavanaugh Funeral Home. He says this never should have happened in Johnstown because there’s a trail of paperwork involved with every customer. Perniciaro says you should be able to trust your funeral home. He says it’s also important to do your research.
“You shouldn’t have to think twice about whether your loved one is going to be handled with care or whether the ashes you’re getting back from the funeral home are the ashes of your loved one. It shouldn’t be a question.”
Chief Gilbo says all DNA work results won’t be in for at least a month or so.