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Published: Tuesday, 8/5/2003

Records sought to ID body in funeral home

The Lucas County prosecutor's office will obtain burial records from four local cemeteries in hopes that the information will lead to the identification of a decomposed body found at the Sherrill Harden Funeral Home.

Henry Harden, the owner of the funeral home at 639 Indiana Ave., met yesterday with prosecutors to discuss his efforts to identify the woman who was among eight decomposing bodies found June 20.

However, John Weglian, chief of the special units division of the prosecutor's office, said four cemeteries were uncooperative with Mr. Harden's efforts to obtain information about burials arranged by his funeral home.

Mr. Weglian said his office would subpoena the cemeteries to obtain the records, which will be given to Mr. Harden to confirm whether burials took place. They are Calvary, Ottawa Hills Memorial Park, Willow in Oregon, and Restlawn Memorial Park in Wood County's Troy Township.

“We will obtain the records for those four cemeteries relating to the Harden burials,” Mr. Weglian said.

Mr. Harden has agreed to comb through his records for information that would help authorities identify the woman. The coroner's office used dental records to put a name to a 29-year-old woman who died in Memphis and in 1996 and was sent to the funeral home. The other six bodies were identified by Mr. Harden.

Prosecutors have said that Mr. Harden's willingness to cooperate in the investigation will determine the number of criminal charges that he ultimately will face.

Toledo attorney John Potts, who was with Mr. Harden at the meeting, said some cemeteries have cooperated with his client's requests and have provided information on burials.

“This is a time-consuming process. Some of the records we have are not reliable. We are double-checking the names with other records. The list of names we are working with is thorough and complete,” Mr. Potts said.

He said Mr. Harden's records indicate the unidentified remains might be from before 1990. If it is from then, it would be the oldest of the remains. The other six were from 2002 and this year.

The investigation began after police found the bodies of eight bodies in various states of decomposition. Six bodies were found in a back building of the funeral home, and two others were found in a garage.

The funeral home, which Mr. Harden has owned since the early 1980s, since has closed. The Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors suspended the licenses of Mr. Harden and his wife, Sandra R. Harden, on June 26.

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