Cremated remains of dozens reportedly found in former Akron church; authorities won’t confirm

Agents from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation searched a church in Akron Tuesday where an unlicensed funeral home operator facing felony charges has served as senior pastor.

But authorities declined to confirm media and citizen reports that the cremated remains of dozens of people were recovered from the building. One report, from Beacon Journal partner News 5 Cleveland, cited multiple unnamed investigative sources as verifying the remains of dozens of people were found in the former church.

A citizen who contacted the Beacon Journal Monday reported he saw boxes of apparent “cremains” inside the unlocked building on Sunday.

Steve Irwin, press secretary for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, said the search was related to the ongoing prosecution of Shawnte Hardin, who allegedly mishandled funeral services for scores of Ohioans from Summit, Cuyahoga, Franklin and Lucas counties since 2014 without ever obtaining a license to provide those services.

Hardin was senior pastor of Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church at 825 E. Buchtel Ave., where the search took place Tuesday morning.

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Hardin had operated a funeral home in the property next door to the church at 815 E. Buchtel Ave.

The church had bought the building at 825 E. Buchtel, along with the neighboring property at 815 E. Buchtel from the Ohio Episcopal Diocese in 2012.

Hardin is facing multiple felony charges in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, including abusing a corpse, failing to file taxes, passing bad checks and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

Unlicensed operator

Hardin’s company, SDH Funeral Properties, became owner of the property next door to the church, at 815 E. Buchtel, in 2018, after acquiring it from funeral home operator, Robert Tate, who bought the land from the church in 2017.

Tate, a former funeral home operator from Toledo who died in December, had gifted the property to Hardin’s company, SDH Funeral Properties, in 2018, according to Summit County Fiscal Office records. Tate had previously lost his license to operate funeral homes in 2015.

An indictment in Hardin’s case was filed last October. A pretrial hearing in the case is set for Feb. 7.

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Eric Marotta can be reached at 330-541-9433, or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MarottaEric.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: BCI searches Shawnte Hardin’s former church after ‘cremains’ reported