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Report: Ashes of 89 people found in Akron church where unlicensed funeral director was a pastor

Steve Irwin, a spokesman with the BCI, said the organization executed a search warrant on Tuesday as part of their investigation into Shawnte Hardin.

AKRON, Ohio — Investigators with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Akron Police Department found cremated remains of 89 people, including a dozen children, that were stored in an abandoned church in Akron.

Ohio BCI agents and Akron police officers went to the church where Shawnte Hardin, the man indicted on 44 charges ranging from abuse of a corpse to representing as a funeral director while unlicensed, used to be a pastor. 

Hardin pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Steve Irwin, a spokesman with the BCI, said the organization executed a search warrant at the Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday as part of their investigation into Hardin.

According to WKYC, investigators said the ashes were found stored in boxes inside the vacant church building. Names and dates of death were listed on each box.

Summit County property records show the former church building is owned by the Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church of Akron. Taxes on the property have not been paid in several years, according to the latest online records. Church officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church is the same church a man said his mother was taken to by Hardin after she died.

BCI agents plan to attempt to return the remains to family members. It’s unclear why the remains were stored in the church.

Hardin has operated several businesses in Lucas, Cuyahoga, Summit and Franklin counties since 2019. 

Last September, two bodies were taken from Hardin's business in Columbus by the BCI. The Ohio Attorney General's Office said Hardin was using the location for makeshift funeral services.

Shawnte Hardin’s attorney, Richard Kerger, sent us this statement which reads in part:

“These cremated remains were in the church…The church was asked to maintain the remains, which under Ohio law it’s allowed to do, so that the funeral director could make an another attempt to find the families and bury the unclaimed remains. There are not many inexpensive alternatives to disposing of unclaimed remains so the option was to have the church keep them in a safe place when the now deceased funeral director could not locate the relatives.”

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