Horrifying funeral home allegations prompt bill that would give Colorado regulators more power to inspect

Bill inspired by criminal allegations against former Lake County coroner, owners of Sunset Mesa funeral home

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

DENVER — With a federal trial looming for two Western Slope women accused of selling body parts around the world without families’ consent, Colorado lawmakers are looking to bring state inspection of funeral homes up to speed to prevent such alleged atrocities from happening again.

The bill has been shaped by two horrifying stories of alleged funeral home malpractice in Colorado, prompting lawmakers in their jurisdictions to take action.

At the Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors in Montrose, owners Megan Hess and her mother Shirley Koch allegedly deceived hundreds of families by giving them fake ashes or cremated remains that belonged to other people while discretely selling bodies and body parts without telling loved ones. A federal grand jury in 2020 indicted the pair on a host of felony charges, with the trial set for April. Both pleaded not guilty to all charges.

And former Lake County Coroner Shannon Kent — who owned multiple High Country funeral homes — was arrested last year after investigators found an unrefrigerated body, bags of unlabeled cremains and an abandoned stillborn infant at his funeral homes in Silverthorne, Leadville and Gypsum.

Kent and his wife were arrested in February after police officers discovered a badly decaying 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 coroner role in Park County and is awaiting trial in Summit County on multiple felony counts relating to abusing a corpse. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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

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