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Judge denies ex-funeral director's bid to seal record

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Henry Harden

THE BLADE
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Nearly eight years after several bodies were found decomposing in the Sherrill Harden Funeral Home, the home's former director appeared in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to try to have his criminal record sealed.

Henry Harden, 71, filed a petition last month to expunge his record. Wednesday, Judge James Jensen denied the request, saying that Harden was not eligible because a conviction for failure to pay taxes is on his record.

"I did not qualify because I had a prior conviction," he said after the hearing. "Had I known that, I probably would not have pursued this at this time.

"I think the law works at a disadvantage to people who make mistakes -- not maliciously -- but made mistakes," he added. "In my case, I was trying to help people when I couldn't."

Harden's funeral home at 639 Indiana Ave., was shuttered in June, 2003, after an inspector with the state Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors found eight bodies when following up on a phone call reporting corpses on the property.

Harden worked with the Lucas County Coroner's Office at the time to identify six of the bodies. A seventh body was identified a month later, but Harden was never able to identify the eighth body, which was in a mummified state.

At the time, Harden publicly apologized to the families whose loved ones' remains were not handled properly, saying he was under a lot of stress because of the deaths of several of his own family members.

Harden, and his wife, Sandra, who is now deceased, gave up their licenses and closed the funeral home.

In September, 2003, Harden pleaded no contest to eight counts of abuse of corpse and one count of theft. He was sentenced in October, 2003, to three years of community control, including 60 days in jail and 100 hours of community service.

Wednesday, Harden said he had hoped to seal his record so as to better be able to find work. He said that despite sending out dozens of resumes over the years, a long-term job never materialized because of his felony record.

"In the minds of most people, a felony means a bad person," he said.

Harden said that he has made amends with some of the families whom his actions affected and that he has found support in the community. He added he doesn't intend to give up.

"I thought it was going to be having to look over your shoulder because people will hate you," he said. "There was a little, but not a lot of that."

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