Records allege Lake County Coroner, wife tried to recover body during investigation
Court documents are providing new insights into the investigation of Lake County Coroner Shannon Lee Kent and his wife, Staci Dawn Kent, who were arrested on charges of attempted tampering with a deceased human body last week.
Earlier this month, authorities discovered a badly deteriorating body that was allegedly left in a coffin for several months at the former Kent-Bailey Funeral Home in Silverthorne. According to court records, the Kents tried to remove the body during the investigation, despite legally being barred from participating in any funerary activities in Colorado.
The body was identified as Victor Akubuo, 42, of southern California, according to Park County Coroner David Kintz Jr.
The Silverthorne Police Department was informed about the situation on Feb. 14 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 and being managed by Colorado Funeral Homes, according to the town of Silverthorne.
During the negotiations, the person said Shannon Kent notified him that there was still a body at the location that had been there for some time. He continued to say that Shannon Kent told him the body was supposed to be sent to Nigeria, but couldn’t be sent due to COVID-19 closures. The tenant, who later signed a lease to take over the location, also agreed to take police officers to the funeral home to document the scene.
Before investigators arrived at the funeral home, Summit County’s Chief Deputy Coroner Amber Flenniken was briefed of the situation, and was able to preliminary identify the body as Akubuo, a Nigerian trucker who died on July 30, 2020, in a single vehicle collision on Kenosha Pass on U.S. Highway 285.
Akubuo’s family retained the Kent Funeral Home to take custody of his body on Aug. 11, 2020, according to the Park County Coroner’s Office. According to police records, Shannon Kent stored Akubuo’s body at his funeral home in Gypsum until it was shut down by state order on Oct. 13, 2020. He then moved Akubuo to the Silverthorne location.
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 uncovered grisly 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.
According to Silverthorne Police Chief John Minor, Shannon Kent should have made arrangements to transfer the body immediately after he surrendered his license.
At the funeral home, officials were able to match the body to Akubuo based on a driver’s license photo provided by Flenniken. Officials later confirmed his identity using fingerprints.
According to police records, the body was wrapped in plastic and was “obviously in various stages of decay.” A subsequent report from a Park County deputy coroner detailed the state of Akubuo’s body, which made it apparent that it had not been cared for in some time.
The Park County Coroner’s Office retook custody of Akubuo’s body on Feb. 16. Kintz said that Akubuo’s family has been notified of the incident, and have made arrangements with another funeral home to facilitate his eventual return to Nigeria.
The report also raised concerns about how well Akubuo’s body was embalmed, and noted that the scarce record of the embalming failed to give a date, location or any other supplemental information. There was also no available embalming authorization signed by Akubuo’s next of kin, no contract signed by his family, no invoice, and no record of possible arrangements to ship the body to Nigeria.
After Akubuo’s body was taken back by the Park County Coroner’s Office, the Kents both allegedly made attempts to recover it.
According to court records, Staci Kent contacted at least three individuals on Feb. 16 — including a Silverthorne police officer and Flenniken — to try and pick up the body, but she was informed that the body was now in the custody of the Park County Coroner’s Office, and that the Department of Regulatory Agencies’ order prohibited Shannon Kent, or anyone acting on his behalf, from doing any funerary related work.
The same day, Shannon Kent contacted Kintz and said he was working with an “old friend” from a Boulder-based mortuary service to pick up the body on behalf of the Kents and Akubuo’s family, according to the reports. The service was later informed that the Kents were no longer licensed to operate.
On Feb. 18, the Silverthorne Police Department arrested both Shannon and Staci Kent with the assistance of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. The arrest affidavit reads, “Based on the reporting it is clear that (the Kents) attempted to recover a body when (they were) not licensed to operate a funeral home and solicited a third party to assist (them) in this crime knowing an investigation was in progress.”
In addition to the attempted tampering with a deceased human body, a Class 4 felony, Shannon Kent was also booked on a charge of violating the bail bond conditions from his December 2019 arrest, a Class 6 felony. District Attorney Heidi McCollum said that formal charges would be brought by Friday, Feb. 26.
On Feb. 22, both Shannon and Staci Kent posted bond in the amount of $10,000. Their next court date is scheduled for March 9.
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