Kent funeral home case, involving an abuse of a corpse charge, gets moved from Lake County to Clear Creek County
Both Shannon and Staci Kent’s Lake County trials have been moved to Clear Creek County, along with their Summit County joint trial
LEADVILLE — The joint trial of Shannon and Staci Kent, former funeral home owners facing charges related to the mismanagement of a man’s body, faced a second mistrial last month after 5th Judicial District Judge Terry Ruckriegle cited a lack of jurors who could serve impartially.
Both the prosecution and the defense agreed that hosting the trial in Summit County was problematic due to the large amount of media attention the case had received over the past year. The joint trial is now going to be held in Clear Creek County beginning on May 31.
Staci Kent, the wife of former Lake County Coroner Shannon Kent, had a motions hearing at Lake County Justice Center in Leadville on Thursday, April 28. In Lake County, Staci, 46, is charged with abuse of a corpse and with two misdemeanor charges related to breaking rules regarding cremation. She pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The defense lawyer asked that the Lake County trial be moved to Clear Creek, noting that the Summit County trial has had some issues and that it is now going to be held in Clear Creek. The prosecutor agreed that the Lake County trial should be moved, saying he didn’t want to take up any more of the court’s time than necessary. Lake County Judge Jonathan Shamis ultimately agreed. A pre-trial conference for Staci was scheduled for June 7.
Shannon also has a Lake County motions hearing scheduled for June 9. He is to go through a second jury trial for attempted tampering with deceased human remains, a Class 4 felony, among other charges. This second trial is scheduled for August.
Shannon has already been found guilty of of second-degree official misconduct, a petty offense, according to the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. Shannon, 46, was sentenced to six months of unsupervised probation in that case. He was acquitted of a perjury charge, a Class 4 felony.
Shannon’s joint trial with Staci, for charges filed in Summit County, is to begin May 31.
In February 2021, the Kents were arrested on charges filed in Summit County after a body was found in their now-defunct funeral home in Silverthorne, according to court records.
Police say the body was badly decomposed after being left for months. According to a probable cause affidavit in support of Shannon Kent’s arrest, paperwork for the body included a notarized statement of embalming, but prosecutors say there was no date or location of when and where the embalming occurred.
Later, the body was identified as Victor Akubuo, a Nigerian man who died in a car crash in Park County on July 30, 2020.
The couple has pleaded not guilty to all charges. According to the affidavit, the Kents said they could not send Akubuo’s body to Nigeria because of complications with air travel due to COVID-19 and that the Nigerian government had not authorized the body to be shipped.
The Silverthorne Police Department was informed about the situation on Feb. 14, 2021 after the current tenant of the funeral home tipped off the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, according to court records. The tenant said they were in the process of purchasing the Silverthorne funeral home from Shannon Kent but backed out after noticing some “red flags.” The funeral home is now under new ownership.
Shannon Kent was previously arrested in December 2019 on charges of official misconduct and perjury for having Staci Kent act as deputy coroner without being legally sworn in, according to the district attorney’s office. In October 2020, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies suspended the operating licenses for Shannon Kent’s funeral homes in Gypsum and Leadville, after a search of the Leadville facility by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office reportedly uncovered improper conditions.
On Dec. 1, 2020, Shannon Kent signed an agreement with the Department of Regulatory Agencies that permanently barred him from the funeral business and other related activities in Colorado.
Because the Kents ran funeral homes and other operations in many counties, John Scott, the attorney representing Shannon Kent, has previously said trying them fairly and impartially in the 5th District would be difficult.
The Summit County Justice Center is pictured in Breckenridge. The Kents’ joint trial is moving from Summit County to Clear Creek County. | Summit Daily News archive
A motions hearing is scheduled for May 10 for both Shannon and Staci Kent in Clear Creek County
A pre-trial conference is scheduled for May 17 for both Shannon and Staci Kent in Clear Creek County
A joint jury trial for both Shannon and Staci Kent is scheduled to begin on May 31 in Clear Creek County
Staci Kent has a pre-trial hearing scheduled for June 7 in Lake County
A joint jury trial for both Shannon and Staci Kent is scheduled to begin June 8 in Clear Creek County
A motions hear for Shannon Kent is scheduled for June 9 in Lake County
A jury trial for Shannon Kent is scheduled to begin Aug. 1 in Lake County
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