Cremated remains of 90 people found in Ohio church where pastor was arrested for mishandling dead bodies

Grim discovery made at the abandoned Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church in Akron months after arrest of senior pastor Shawnte Hardin

Rachel Sharp
Monday 17 January 2022 18:12
<p>Shawnte Hardin (pictured in mugshot) was charged with 37 counts in October for allegedly illegally running funeral businesses </p>

Shawnte Hardin (pictured in mugshot) was charged with 37 counts in October for allegedly illegally running funeral businesses

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The cremated remains of at least 90 people have been found in the basement of an Ohio church just months after the pastor was arrested for mishandling dead bodies, according to authorities.

Court documents, obtained by ABC13, reveal that the remains were discovered on Wednesday stored in boxes and bags inside the abandoned Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church in Akron.

The remains were labelled with names of the deceased, with the Ohio Attorney General’s office releasing the list of names to the public.

Many of the deceased have been identified as former residents of Toledo.

The shocking discovery comes three months after the church’s senior pastor, Shawnte Hardin, was arrested on a string of felony charges for running illegal funeral businesses.

Mr Hardin, 41, is accused of operating several illegal funeral businesses in Lucas, Cuyahoga, Summit, and Franklin counties since at least 2019 despite not having a funeral licence.

His arrest came after two bodies were found inside a building he was using for makeshift funeral services in Columbus, according to a press release from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

He was indicted on 37 counts in October. The charges filed against him are: one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity; three counts of tampering with records; one count of theft; eight counts of abuse of a corpse; five counts of failure to file taxes; five counts of passing bad checks; two counts of identity fraud; two counts of telecommunications fraud; six counts of representation as a funeral director while unlicensed; single counts of fifth-degree felony criminal tools and unauthorised use of a vehicle; one count of operating an unlicensed funeral home; and one count of failure to refrigerate a human body.

A spokesperson for the Ohio Attorney General’s office told WOIO that the latest discovery was part of their ongoing investigation regarding Mr Hardin.

Investigators were alerted to the cremated remains by a couple who described themselves as “urban explorers” and said they had stumbled across the boxes inside the abandoned church, according to court documents.

Mr Hardin’s attorney Richard Kerger told WOIO that the remains belonged to Robert Tate, a disgraced funeral director who lost his licence after he was found guilty of abusing corpses back in 2015.

Tate was charged after investigators discovered he was storing 11 rotting bodies in a garage.

Mr Kerger claimed Mr Hardin was letting his friend store the remains at the church as a favour.

But then Tate died last month at the age of 65.

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

It is unclear if Mr Hardin faces new charges in connection to the dozens of remains.

He is currently on house arrest over the other charges, to which he was pleaded not guilty.

The Attorney General’s office is asking members of the public who notice a family member on the list to call: 855-BCI-Ohio (855-224-6446).

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