Trial for Toledo man accused of improperly running funeral services is underway

Shawnte Hardin is facing a range of charges, including abuse of a corpse and representing as a funeral director while unlicensed.
Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 1:48 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - The trial for a Toledo man facing dozens of charges connected to his funeral services began Monday.

Shawnte Hardin is facing a range of charges, including abuse of a corpse and representing as a funeral director while unlicensed.

He opted out of a jury for his trial in Lucas County and will instead go for a bench trial, meaning the judge will decide Hardin’s fate.

Hardin was indicted by a Lucas County Grand Jury in October 2021 on 37 criminal charges including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, tampering with records, theft, abuse of a corpse, identity fraud, representation as a funeral director while unlicensed, and passing bad checks.

In 2019, an I-Team investigation revealed that Hardin was one of two people identified as a suspect after reports of an improperly stored body in a building behind the Rock Church off Airport Highway used for embalming bodies. At the time, Hardin was not listed in an Ohio database as being certified by the Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors.

Earlier this year, investigators reported finding dozens of cremated remains inside of an Akron church as part of an investigation into Hardin -- many of which were allegedly from Tate Funeral Homes in Toledo. Hardin was the senior pastor of the church. Some families thought they had the remains of their loved ones, only to find out they never did. Many were later reunited with the correct remains of their loved ones. Hardin’s trial in Lucas County does not include charges from the on-going investigation in Akron.

Hardin’s attorney said he had been holding the remains for Robert Tate, the late funeral director who lost his license in 2015 after an investigation determined he had improperly stored bodies. The attorney maintained Hardin did not violate any laws.

“Mr. Tate did the paperwork. We don’t know. We didn’t do the paperwork. We didn’t do an inventory. We didn’t match up. We just took what he gave them,” said Rick Kerger, Hardin’s attorney.

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