Gruesome funeral home allegations prompt bill that would give Colorado regulators more inspection power

Colorado Funeral Homes now operates the former Kent-Bailey Funeral Home in Silverthorne, pictured here March 8, 2021.
Taylor Sienkiewicz/Daily Summit News

DENVER — As a federal trial looms for two West Slope women accused of selling body parts around the world without the families’ consent, Colorado lawmakers are seeking to expedite state inspection of funeral homes to prevent such alleged atrocities from happening again.

The bill was shaped by two horrific stories of alleged malpractice at a Colorado funeral home, prompting lawmakers in their jurisdictions to take action.

At Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors in Montrose, owners Megan Hess and her mother Shirley Koch allegedly tricked hundreds of families into giving them fake ashes or cremated remains belonging to other people while quietly selling bodies and body parts without telling their relatives. A federal grand jury in 2020 indicted the couple on a host of felony charges, with trial scheduled for April. Both have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

And former Lake County coroner Shannon Kent – who owned several High Country funeral homes – was arrested last year after investigators found an unrefrigerated body, unlabeled cremation bags and a stillborn child abandoned at his funeral homes in Silverthorne, Leadville and Gypsum.

Kent and his wife were arrested in February after officers discovered a decomposing body that had been left for several months in the Kents’ Silverthorne Funeral Home. Kent was convicted of official misconduct in September related to his role as coroner in Park County and is awaiting trial in Summit County on multiple counts related to the abuse of a corpse. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.

“The details of the incidents at Shannon Kent’s funeral home are some of the most atrocious and heinous things I have seen as a human being and a lawmaker,” said Rep. Dylan Roberts, a Democrat from Avon and one of the co-sponsors of the new bill. . “I knew I wanted to do something to prevent this from happening again.”


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