Ashes Of 89 People Found In Boxes And Bags At Abandoned Church In Ohio

Ohio investigators have found the cremated remains of 89 people stored in boxes and bags at an abandoned church in Akron, authorities said.

Investigators with the Ohio Criminal Investigations Office confiscated the remains at Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday, Attorney General Steve Irwin said Thursday.

The church is owned by Shawnty Hardin, 41, who faces 44 counts including racketeering, record tampering, identity fraud and misuse of a corpse in Lucas County, more than 100 miles from Akron.

Some of the charges relate to alleged criminal abuses in Franklin, Summit, and Cuyahoga counties, where authorities say Hardin acted as an unlicensed funeral director. Cases were standardized in Toledo. Hardin pleaded not guilty.

Hardin’s attorney, Richard Kerger, said Thursday that former funeral director Robert Tate Jr. asked Hardin in 2017 to store the ashes of people whose families did not claim ownership.

“There was no compensation for him,” Kerger said of Hardin. “He was just doing a favor to someone who needed it.”

Tate did not appeal one felony and three misdemeanor counts in November 2015 after the board of authorities found 11 bodies in various states of decay at a Toledo funeral home. He was sentenced to one week in prison with probation. He passed away in December at the age of 65.

The remains were initially discovered in Akron on Sunday by a woman who told a state investigator she was an “urban explorer” and entered the open door of an abandoned church. I called the Ohio State Bureau of Taxidermy and Funeral Administrators, which led to the state’s investigation.

The woman said some of the ashes dated back to 2010, according to a written search warrant written by State Investigations Agent Arvin Clare.

Kierger suspected that the church had been abandoned. He said Hardin has been unable to inspect the building since he was placed in home detention at his mother’s Columbus home while awaiting trial.

Harden was initially charged with 37 counts in September after he was accused of running an unauthorized funeral procession. The investigation began that same month after someone called 911 and reported seeing a body being transported from a truck to a building.

State agents then removed two bodies from the building.

Hardin told a Columbus TV station at the time that he was not working as a funeral director but instead offered low-cost services to move and wash the bodies.

He was charged with seven additional charges, including misusing a corpse in December.

According to his attorney, state law does not require permission from a funeral director to bury people.

“There is nothing wrong with helping people dispose of the remains of their loved ones,” Kerger said.

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