JOHNSTOWN, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A police search of the Ehle and Barnett Funeral Home leads Johnstown Police detectives to find more than a dozen unmarked cremated remains and several bodies on the property. The funeral director, Brian Barnett, had his license suspended in November 2021 by the Bureau of Funeral Directing under the Department of Health.
35-year-old Barnett lists himself as the sole owner of Ehle and Barnett Funeral Home. He purchased the business from the previous owner, Daniel Vernon Ehle, in 2014.
On January 10, a family lodged a complaint with the Johnstown Police Department and told officers they hadn’t been able to get a hold of Barnett for several weeks after purchasing cremation services for a loved one.
Detectives then learned of another deceased person, who had been retrieved by Barnett in late 2021. “Death records indicated that the person had been cremated. When contacted, the crematorium listed on the death certificate had no record of a cremation being completed,” JPD said in a press release to News10.
The Bureau of Funeral Directing told NEWS10’s Stephanie Rivas, this wasn’t the first time a customer complained. The department received a formal complaint in May 2021 that caused them to investigate the home further.
According to the Bureau of Funeral Directing, Ehle and Barnett Funeral Home is not a licensed funeral firm and is not permitted to store or handle any deceased persons. Barnett’s license was suspended on November 30, 2021 for operating that unregistered firm.
The bureau said the suspension occurred “after having been previously sanctioned by the Department for the same violation, and for denying the Department’s requests to inspect funeral firm records which the Department is authorized to inspect. His name will be removed from the list of Registered Funeral Directors.”
The Department’s Funeral Director Registry requires a biennial registration for funeral homes and firms that do not register in a timely manner are sent a closure letter.
After multiple attempts to reach him, Barnett later contacted Police. He told detectives there were human remains at the home, and no services had been completed in several weeks.
At this point in the investigation, Johnstown Police Department requested a search warrant granted by the Hon. Michael Smrtic.
While conducting a search warrant of the Ehle and Barnett Funeral Home property on January 14, investigators located over a dozen containers of cremated remains. Several containers did not have visible identification tags and were open.
In a detached garage on the premises, detectives found bodies in advanced stages of decomposition. Police said the bodies were found surrounded by garbage/furniture and were not stored in a temperature-controlled location.
Barnett has been removed from the public list of licensed funeral directors. NEWS10’s Stephanie Rivas reached out to Barnett and did not receive a response.
An acquaintance of Barnett’s who works at the museum next door to the home said he was shocked by the news. “Nice guy, really is. I always enjoy talking to him,” Bradley Luberto, Gloversville resident, said. “But yeah, total surprise.”
A client of Barnett’s, Aubrey Pagan, was also surprised to hear news of the investigation. Barnett conducted services for her brother in 2019 and she said, “Brian said something to me that gave me so much hope in the process. It was a great experience overall.”
The remains found on the property were transferred to AG Cole Funeral Home under the authority of the Fulton County Coroner’s Office. The Bureau of Funeral Directing said some clients were notified. However, Johnstown Police Department’s releases stated they are still looking to connect some remains with corresponding family members.
Johnstown Police is asking anyone who purchased services at the home and did not receive the remains of their loved ones to contact them at JPD@cityofjohnstown.ny.gov or the Fulton County Coroners Office.