JOHNSTOWN, N.Y. (News10)-A former Johnstown funeral home operator accused of mishandling remains, including dumping corpses inside a garage is expected to face even more charges that come with more potential time behind bars. That’s according to the chief of police and district attorney who spoke with News10’s Anya Tucker.
Brian Barnett, the former director of Ehle-Barnett Funeral Home was expected to accept a plea deal August 16th. A deal that came with 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison. The charges included Grand Larceny, Concealment of a Corpse, Operating a Funeral Home without a License and Improper Burial. In February, Johnstown Police said they found decomposed remains that surviving loved ones had paid Barnett to cremate and thought they had received and in some cases had buried. The bodies were discovered inside a garage behind the funeral home and even one inside Barnett’s own residence. Since then, authorities have said the coroner has also being trying to identify several unlabeled cremains which were removed from the now shuttered business.
Fulton County District Attorney Amanda Nellis says new evidence, that recently came to light, has raised the amount Barnett allegedly stole from clients. “Right now, we have gained more information from our victims,” she told News10’s Anya Tucker. As a result of the new information, Nellis says she is considering several new charges including Grand Larceny in the 2nd degree which the DA says comes with a maximum of between 5 to 15 years, much more than the original 2 1/3 to 7 year deal which Barnett was expected to accept.
The case has been a frustrating one for the families involved, who told News10’s Anya Tucker in emails and phone calls that they were outraged over the penalty, which they felt was too light given the fact that they say they were lied to by Barnett. Not to mention that some of the bodies were allegedly left inside Barnett’s garage for more than a year. The judge adjourned the original plea deal in August after a request made by Johnstown Police Chief David Gilbo who claims the DA’s office never notified him or his investigators of any deals while they were still busy working on what they considered to be an open case. It’s something Nellis denies.
Gilbo says since the adjournment, they located the wrong cremains buried in another gravesite and the coroner successfully identified cremains in containers which were left unlabeled. He says the total list of deceased victims grew from 6 to 21. “Just with 21 families, I can tell you right now, there’s not a person in this county in the last year and a half who hasn’t picked up a loved one and is not rethinking in their mind, ‘Do I really have my loved ones ashes? Or, did we really bury, you know, my relative?'” said Gilbo.
He told Anya that his office has now wrapped up their case. Nellis says she would like to take the new charges to a grand jury. It is unclear if there will be a new deal offered or of the case will go to trial. Anya called Barnett’s attorney who told her that he did not wish to comment.