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3News Investigates: Dozens of cremated remains found in vacant Akron church

Investigators say the ashes of 91 people, including 12 children, were found stored in boxes inside the vacant church building.

AKRON, Ohio — Ohio investigators recovered the cremated remains of at least 90 people, including a dozen children, stored for years in an abandoned church in Akron, authorities confirmed Wednesday to 3News Investigates.

Agents with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, along with members of the Akron Police Department, went to the East Buchtel building Tuesday morning and collected the remains. Investigators say the ashes of 91 people, including 12 children, 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.

Steve Irwin, a spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, said agents were executing a search warrant stemming from BCI’s ongoing investigation of a Lucas County man accused of performing funeral services without a license.

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 businesses in Lucas, Cuyahoga, Summit and Franklin counties since at least 2019, according to Irwin.

"Since it's an ongoing investigation, we cannot discuss [the search Tuesday in Akron]," Irwin told 3News Investigates.

Hardin's attorney Richard Kerger released the following statement:

"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."

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

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