Shannon, Staci Kent plead not guilty to felonies related to alleged corpse abuse

Former Lake County Coroner Shannon Lee Kent and his wife, Staci Dawn Kent, of Leadville, pleaded not guilty during a hearing at the Summit County Justice Center on Monday, May 17, to charges related to alleged tampering with a deceased human body.

The Kents, both 45 years old, were arrested in February after officers with the Silverthorne Police Department discovered a badly decaying body that had been left in their Silverthorne funeral home for several months. The deceased was later identified by the Summit County Coroner’s Office as 42-year-old Victor Akubuo, who died in a car crash in Park County on July 30, 2020.

According to an arrest warrant, the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office was first tipped off to the situation in February by an individual hoping to purchase the funeral home, who said Shannon Kent informed them that there was still a body in the facility from the previous July. The individual said Shannon Kent told him he was meant to ship the body to Nigeria but couldn’t due to COVID-19 restrictions at the time.

Akubuo’s family actually retained the Kent Funeral Home in August 2020, according to a statement from the Park County Coroner’s Office, which took custody of the body following its discovery.

Investigators found that the body was “obviously in various stages of decay,” and a report from a Park County deputy coroner included in the affidavit raised serious concerns about the state of the body and whether it was cared for properly. Police also discovered that the Department of Regulatory Agencies barred Shannon Kent for life from operating any funerary services in Colorado after an investigation into unsanitary conditions at his funeral home in Leadville.

According to the arrest affidavit, representatives with the Silverthorne Police Department and coroner’s offices in Summit and Park counties all reported that the Kents contacted them to try to take possession of the body after the investigation had begun.

Silverthorne officers arrested the Kents in Leadville on Feb. 18 with the assistance of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. In April, Shannon Kent formally resigned from his post as the Lake County Coroner.

Shannon Kent was charged with felony counts of criminal attempt to commit tampering with a deceased human body, abuse of a corpse and violation of bail bond conditions. Staci Kent was charged with felony counts of criminal attempt to commit tampering with a deceased human body and abuse of a corpse.

During the hearing Monday, the Kents pleaded not guilty to all charges. The cases have been joined, and Chief Judge Mark Thompson scheduled a five-day trial on the case beginning Nov. 15.

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