Authorities in Ohio have launched an investigation after an urban explorer discovered the cremated remains of at least 89 people in an abandoned church in Akron.
The woman, who entered the Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church through an open door, contacted the Ohio State Bureau of Embalmers and Funeral Directors after finding boxes filled with funeral urns, some of which were from 2010.
Officials said the church is owned by Shawnte Hardin, 41, who is currently facing 44 counts, including racketeering, tampering with records, identity fraud, and abuse of a corpse in unrelated cases in other counties. He is also accused of acting as an unlicensed funeral director.
Hardin’s attorney, Richard Kerger, responded to the discovery, saying that a former funeral director named Robert Tate Jr. asked his client to store the ashes in 2017 because they had not been claimed by their families. Tate was stripped of his funeral director license after authorities found 11 corpses rotting in a garage in 2015. He passed away in December at the age of 65.
Kerger also disputed claims that the church was abandoned. He said that Hardin, who is a senior pastor of the church, has been unable to check on the building because he was put on home detention while awaiting trial.
The Ohio Attorney General’s office released a list of the deceased and is asking family members to contact them to claim the ashes.