AKRON, Ohio — State agents investigating a rogue funeral operator are now facing the challenging of connecting the cremated remains of 89 people found abandoned in a vacant Akron church.
Agents with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation on Thursday released their search warrant affidavit which details their search Tuesday inside the now-vacant church building on East Buchtel Avenue in Akron.
BCI agents collected 89 boxes of remains, some of which included children, during their search. It is part of an ongoing investigation that focuses on Shawnte Hardin.
Shawnte Hardin, 41, is indicted in Lucas County Common Pleas Court on a range of charges including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, records tampering, and multiple counts of abuse of a corpse.
Hardin has operated funeral businesses in Lucas, Cuyahoga, Summit and Franklin counties since at least 2019, Irwin said.
BCI was notified of the discarded remains after an Akron woman, an “urban explorer” hobbyist, went inside the church owned by Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church of Akron.
In a phone interview Thursday with 3News Investigates, the woman said she and a friend were outside the building when she saw a group of teens running in and out of the vacant church.
“We went inside and told the kids to get out and we looked around and that’s when we saw all those boxes,” the woman said.
“In the kitchenette area there were 30 to 40 boxes, some white bags, with names and social security numbers, and the cremated remains were lined up. It wasn’t scary. It was sad and disturbing. Just shocking.”
The Akron woman said the cremation records she saw were dated between 2005 and 2020. After being inside an hour and photographing what she saw, she contacted the state funeral director’s office, which in turn contacted BCI.