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An Ohio pastor is being investigated by police for running multiple illegal funeral businesses across the state. He is now facing a slew of new charges after investigators uncovered the remains of 89 people in boxes and bags at his abandoned church in Akron.
In September, Shawnte Hardin, 41, pastor of the abandoned Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church, was charged with racketeering, tampering with records, identity fraud and abuse of a corpse in Lucas County after he was discovered to have been operating without a funeral license. On Tuesday, authorities reportedly found more than 80 cremated human remains while searching a building Hardin used for funeral services in Akron, Ohio.
The search of the lot was part of the investigation into Hardin’s illegal funeral services.
The remains were discovered at Hardin’s church in Akron on Sunday by a self-described ‘urban explorer,’ a woman who contacted the Ohio State Bureau of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, triggering the state investigation, per the report.
The remains had been stored at the vacant church for years and are believed to mostly be adults, but some may be children.
As reported by The Daily Mail, Hardin claims former funeral director Robert Tate Jr. asked him in 2017 to store the ashes of people who had not been claimed by their families.
“He was just doing a service for someone who needed it,” said Hardin’s attorney, Richard Kerger.
“There’s nothing wrong with helping people dispose the remains of their loved ones,” Kerger said.
Tate, who died in December at age 65, spent a week in jail and served probation after authorities found 11 decayed bodies at his Toledo funeral home. In 2015, he reportedly pleaded no contest to one felony and three misdemeanor charges.
Hardin was initially indicted with 37 counts but in December he was charged with seven additional counts, including abuse of a corpse. He was charged with the following:
One count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a first-degree felony.
Three counts of tampering with records, third-degree felonies.
One count of theft, a fourth-degree felony.
Eight counts of abuse of a corpse, all fifth-degree felonies.
Five counts of failure to file taxes, all fifth-degree felonies.
Five counts of passing bad checks, all fifth-degree felonies.
Two counts of identity fraud, both fifth-degree felonies.
Two counts of telecommunications fraud, both fifth-degree felonies.
Six counts of representation as a funeral director while unlicensed, two unclassified felonies and four unclassified misdemeanors.
Single counts of fifth-degree felony criminal tools and unauthorized use of a vehicle.
One count of operating an unlicensed funeral home, an unclassified felony.
One count of failure to refrigerate a human body, an unclassified misdemeanor.