Police discovered the cremated remains of 90 people in the Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church’s basement in Akron, Ohio, on Wednesday, Jan. 12.
According to ABC13, agents with the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) implemented a search warrant at the church, where they found “dozens and dozens” of cremated remains. BCI said they discovered the remains in plastic bags and white boxes.
The Ohio Attorney General’s office released court documents, which indicate that several of the 90 cremated bodies belong to former Toledo residents.
The court documents, filed by BCI, revealed that the Ohio Department of Funeral and Embalmers Inspector Troy Seehase initially told them about the remains. They were alerted by a woman named Angie Small, who said she found numerous boxes in the church’s basement, located at 800 block of Buchtel Avenue.
Small told investigators that she saw young men go through Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church’s side door on Jan. 9. She claims that she saw boxes on the first floor when she told those young men to leave. The packages reportedly had the business name Tri-county Cremation Services on them, in addition to names and dates that go back to 2010.
The Ohio Attorney General’s office spokesperson said BCI’s search warrant was part of their ongoing investigation surrounding the church’s senior pastor, Shawnte Hardin.
Reports said that Hardin conducted funeral services, without a license, for several Ohio residents since 2014. He applied for one, but the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors denied his application because it was incomplete. Nonetheless, he operated under Hussain Funeral Directors, Celebration of Life Memorial Chapels, Hardin Funeral Home, Inc., American Mortuary Services and Transportation, and Shawnte Davon Hardin Services, LLC.
Then, in October 2021, the Lucas County Grand Jury indicted Hardin on 37 criminal charges, including representation as a funeral director without a license, abuse of a corpse, tampering with records, identity fraud, passing bad checks, and more.
Hardin’s attorney, Richard Kerger, told WOIO that the cremated remains found at Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church were stored as a favor for the 41-year-old’s friend Robert Tate. Tate was a funeral director and owner of Tate Funeral Homes, but he lost his license in 2015. Tate died before families were alerted that their relative’s remains were moved to the church in Akron.