‘A lack of respect for the deceased’: Former Silverthorne funeral home director sentenced to jail time in Lake County case tied to mixing of cremated remains | SummitDaily.com

‘A lack of respect for the deceased’: Former Silverthorne funeral home director sentenced to jail time in Lake County case tied to mixing of cremated remains

A Lake County judge sentenced Shannon Kent to six months the county jail after he pleaded guilty to two charges of unlawful acts of cremation in December.

Shannon Kent
Shannon Kent

The former Lake County coroner — who once ran a Silverthorne funeral home — received a 6-month jail sentence Thursday, Feb. 2, in a case stemming from the cremation of a still-born baby that became mixed with other human remains.

Lake County Judge Catherine Cheroutes sentenced Shannon Kent, 47, formerly of Leadville, after he pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful acts of cremation, both misdemeanors, in December. Kent has since moved to Missouri.

“Mr. Kent’s attitude in this community and his sense that the rules don’t really apply to him are what brought his downfall,” Cheroutes said. “He was a public servant, and his attitude was not one of ‘my job is to help the public.’”

In February 2020, a woman who had hired the funeral home run by Kent and his wife contacted law enforcement to report that she had received ashes in excess of what she would expect for a 5-pound baby, according to an affidavit in support of a search warrant filed in the case.

The cremated remains were delivered to the woman’s home with no death certificate, chain of custody, or evidence of whose remains they were, the court documents state. The woman said she faced communication issues and delays before receiving the remains, and when she contacted Kent and his wife, they denied the ashes were anyone else’s, according to the affidavit. 

A scientific analysis later showed “the cremation remains contain a minimum of (two) individuals, a perinatal infant, and a larger individual” in addition to “bits of non-skeletal material consistent with jewelry fasteners, and surgical materials,” according to the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

Each charge Kent pleaded guilty to carried a maximum punishment of two years in the county jail, and Assistant District Attorney Joe Kirwan argued he should spend two years behind bars. Kirwan said the mother and father of the cremated baby described their dealings with Kent as a “nightmare.”

“This has all been absolutely devastating for all of us,” the father said during the court hearing. “It wasn’t the death — the death was hard, (the baby’s) death was hard — but it was Shannon Kent’s reaction to us whenever he was confronted.”

The father said Kent first told the family that the excess weight was clothes that were cremated with the remains, then that it was a pine box, then a cardboard box, then a blanket.

“The story never stuck,” he said. “He lied to us. He insulted us. He demeaned us.”

The father said that he felt that the case should have gone to trial because there are other unnamed victims, including deceased people, who Kent failed. As part of Kent’s plea deal, prosecutors dismissed 12 other charges against him, including five counts of abuse of a corpse, four of which were Class 6 felonies and one of which was a misdemeanor.

Cheroutes said that decisions about bringing charges or making plea deals are left almost entirely to prosecutors, but she acknowledged that the father felt a responsibility for the other victims in the case and that weighed into her sentencing decision.

“There were other victims,” she said. “And there were other people who didn’t have a voice.”

Meanwhile, Kent’s defense attorney John Scott argued that Kent should be sentenced only to probation or community service. Pointing to a doctor’s report included in the case that states that commingling of cremated remains is “inevitable,” Scott said there are a lot of things about the funeral home industry that the public doesn’t want to know.

“I think in the prosecution of these cases there has been tremendous misunderstanding of the roles of funeral home directors and the roles of coroners,” he said.

Scott said while Kent was not the one who actually did the cremation, he has accepted responsibility for the actions of one of his employees. He also added that he believes Kent has already been punished by the media coverage of the multiple criminal cases he has been involved in the past three years.

But Cheroutes said she believes Kent is continuing to deflect responsibility by pointing to the role of his employee and dismissed the idea that his actions were simply misinterpretation of funeral home practices.

“You showed a lack of respect for the deceased,” she said. “…You negligently handled bodies, and I think you breached the trust of this community.”

Cheroutes said that probation or community service would not be an appropriate sentence — especially since Kent has since moved to Missouri. She issued a 6-month sentence on both of the charges Kent pleaded to, with one of the sentences running concurrent to the other.

Kent also briefly spoke prior to his sentencing.

“I would like to apologize and say that I am sorry for the loss of their child and the things that I did and said that contributed,” he stated.

Shannon Kent’s wife, Staci Kent, also faces charges stemming from the cremated remains of the still-born baby. She has pleaded not guilty to the three misdemeanor charges related to abuse of a corpse and is scheduled for a motions hearing Feb. 23, according to court documents.

Shannon Kent’s conviction comes after a Clear Creek County jury last summer found him and his wife not guilty of charges including felony counts of abuse of a corpse and tampering with a deceased human body. That case had to do with the body of a Nigerian man that police said had become badly decomposed after being left for months at the Kents’ funeral home in Silverthorne.

Another case involving Kent concluded in 2021, when a jury found him guilty of second-degree official misconduct, a petty offense, but not guilty of perjury, a felony. That case had to do with Shannon Kent sending his wife to several death scenes in 2019 while he was Lake County coroner. He was sentenced to six months of probation in that instance.

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