Pastor Accused of Working as an Unlicensed Funeral Director is Arrested After the Cremated Remains of 89 People Are Found in Boxes and Bags at His Abandoned Church in Akron, Ohio

An Ohio pastor without a funeral license is being investigated by police after the remains of 89 people were found stored in boxes and bags at his abandoned church in Akron.

Shawnte Hardin, 41, pastor of the abandoned Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church, was charged in September with 44 counts after two bodies were recovered from a building he was using for funeral services in Columbus, the Ohio Attorney General’s office said.

At the time he was charged with racketeering, tampering with records, identity fraud and abuse of a corpse in Lucas County, 100 miles from Akron.

On Tuesday, investigators from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation seized Hardin’s abandoned church after a woman claiming to be an ‘urban explorer’ entered the church and found the remains.

Hardin’s attorney, Richard Kerger, said Thursday that a former funeral director named Robert Tate Jr asked Hardin in 2017 to store the ashes of people whose families had not claimed them.

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

It is unclear if authorities plan to upgrade charges against Hardin after the nearly 90 remains were found.

In October, Hardin was taken into custody to Lucas County Jail in northwest Ohio. It does not appear he’s been released on bail at this time.

Authorities said Hardin also has a history of criminal violations for acting as an unlicensed funeral director in Franklin, Summit and Cuyahoga counties since at least 2019.

The cases were consolidated in Toledo, with Hardin pleading not guilty.

Tate, the funeral director who allegedly asked Hardin to store the remains at his church in 2017, pleaded no contest to one felony and three misdemeanor charges in November 2015 after authorities board found 11 bodies in various states of decay at his Toledo funeral home.

Tate was sentenced to a week in jail and probation. He died in December at age 65.

The remains at Hardin’s church in Akron were initially discovered Sunday by a woman who told a state investigator she was an ‘urban explorer’ and had entered an open door of an abandoned church.

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Source: Daily Mail