Months after he was arrested for acting as an unlicensed funeral director, an Ohio pastor is now facing a multitude of additional charges after authorities discovered 89 cremated remains in his abandoned church.
According to the Daily Mail, a woman calling herself an “urban explorer” tipped authorities off after she discovered several boxes and bags containing cremated remains on the first floor of Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church. Investigators from the Ohio Bureau of Investigation opened their investigation into the matter on Jan. 11.
According to a search warrant affidavit, the woman said that she noticed some of the remains were labeled with dates going back to 2010.
There’s significant health issues, significant dignity issues,” an OBI representative told News 5 Cleveland. “This is not just a regulatory issue. And some of the things we’re seeing there are just not right.”
The church has been abandoned at least since Hardin’s arrest in September. At the time, the disgraced pastor faced 44 separate charges after two bodies were discovered in a building in Columbus, which he had been using for funeral services.
Originally charged with racketeering, tampering with records, identity fraud and abuse of a corpse in Lucas County, Hardin was later charged with related crimes in Cuyahoga, Summit and Franklin counties, News 5 reports. Claiming that he operated several funeral homes across the state in 2019, authorities charged Hardin with abuse of a corpse, representation as a funeral director while unlicensed, operating an unlicensed funeral home and failure to refrigerate a human body, among others.
He faces multiple counts of nearly all the charges against him.
Hardin’s attorney Richard Kerger maintains that the remains discovered at Greater Faith belong to Robert Tate, Jr., a former funeral director who approached the pastor in 2017, asking that he store the remains on his behalf.
However, the family of Joseph Blackshear, whose remains were among last week’s discovery, confirmed that they were told by Hardin that the man had been buried next to another relative at the time of his funeral in 2004.