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'I love helping families': Ohio man accused of running fake funeral business testifies

Shawnte Hardin faces more than 40 charges including impersonating a funeral director and abuse of corpse.

TOLEDO, Ohio — In an unusual legal tactic, Shawnte Hardin, the man accused of running a fake funeral business, took the stand on his own behalf Tuesday in a criminal bench trial in Toledo.

Hardin is facing more than 40 criminal charges including impersonating a funeral director, abuse of a corpse and passing bad checks.

The state rested its case last week. On Tuesday the defense began by putting Hardin on the witness stand.

Hardin flatly denied when asked by his attorney if he ever impersonated a funeral director. He denied that he abused corpses or illegal transported dead bodies. Ohio law does not require a license to transport dead bodies, nor does it require someone to have a license to preform most funeral services. The law does require that bodies be refrigerated prior to burial or cremation.

"I love helping families because the funeral industry has abused many things. I love to help a family to help them get through the process," he said.

Hardin said he got involved with the funeral business at the age of 12 when he asked a family friend who was in the business if he could help.

He said he helped pick up dead bodies, helped put them in caskets and dressed them as well as did their make-up.

Hardin testified that he never graduated from mortuary school and that he did serve time in prison for driving an unauthorized vehicle.

Hardin's former customers testified about how he provided the exact funeral that they wanted and did so at a much lower cost than a traditional funeral home. Witnesses on behalf of the defense said Hardin never presented himself as a funeral director, just someone who knew had to do funerals.

Witnesses for the state have testified how Hardin botched their funerals including poor embalming, storing bodies in buildings that were not refrigerated or leaving bodies at Islamic Mosques when the people were not Muslim. The state also presented evidence that showed death certificates that had Hardin's name on them but used another funeral home license.

Hardin is expected to take the stand again Wednesday.

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