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Published: Wednesday, 6/25/2003

6 of 8 decomposed bodies are identified

Six of the eight decomposed bodies found Friday at a central Toledo funeral home have been positively identified, the Lucas County Coroner's Office said yesterday. Dr. James Patrick, coroner, declined to release the identities.

Authorities said six bodies were found in a back building at the Sherrill Harden Funeral Home, 639 Indiana Ave., and two in an adjacent garage.

The home's owner, Henry Harden, provided police with the identities of six of the bodies but could not identify the two found in the garage. Mr. Harden did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Investigators said Monday a name provided by the funeral home for one of the bodies was found to be inaccurate.

Identifying the two remaining bodies may take some time, Dr. Patrick said, because of the state of decomposition. These bodies may have been there for years, he said.

Dr. David Grossman, Toledo-Lucas County health commissioner, said death certificates of people for which the home arranged services are being reviewed. “We're looking back several years to see if we can match them up,” he said.

The bodies include at least six African-Americans. Three were women; all appear to be adults.

Monday, the funeral home agreed to a request by Mayor Jack Ford to voluntarily close, at least while the investigation is going on, after its last scheduled funeral today. The home could face disciplinary action by the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, including revocation of its operating license, during an emergency meeting tomorrow.

The board last met under similar circumstances after investigators found three decomposing bodies in a Mount Vernon funeral home. Its license was revoked, and the owner was later convicted and sent to prison for abusing corpses and bilking customers.

Sherrill Harden was accused of not properly caring for the dead and charged with unprofessional conduct last June.

The state embalmers panel accused the funeral home of violating Ohio rules that state: “All bodies in the preparation room should be treated with proper care and dignity and should be properly covered at all times,” according to board records obtained by The Blade.

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