(UnitedVoice.com) – When a family sends their loved ones to a funeral home, there’s an expectation the business will handle the remains with dignity. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same moral, ethical, and legal standards. Shirley Koch and her daughter, Megan Hess, certainly didn’t. Now, the Colorado women will spend years in prison as a result.
On January 3, the Colorado District of the US Attorney’s Office announced the sentencing of both women. According to the statement, Koch and Hess operated the Sunset Mesa Funeral Home, located in Montrose. Prosecutors accused both women of selling the body parts of the deceased people that families entrusted them with preparing for burial and cremation. They pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting and mail fraud.
From 2010 to 2018, the women stole body parts from hundreds of decedents. They sold the remains to a body broker. The women would meet with victims who wanted to set up cremation services for loved ones or themselves. Then, instead of providing the services, they would sell body parts piecemeal, or the entire body, to the broker. They even sold bodies and parts that they certified as infectious disease-free but weren’t. Some of the remains carried HIV and other contagious diseases.
Sunset Mesa Funeral Home Operators Sentenced to Federal Prison For Illegal Body Part Scheme https://t.co/S05V8gQkB6
— U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado (@USAO_CO) January 4, 2023
The US Attorney’s Office revealed that occasionally the mother and daughter would approach the families of the dead about donating body parts but received rejections. So, instead, they often received no authorization. Worse, they claimed they delivered decedents’ cremated remains but often didn’t. It’s unclear exactly what they provided to families labeled as cremated remains.
Judge Christine M. Arguello handed Hess a sentence of 20 years in prison. Her mother, Koch, received 15 years for her crimes. US Attorney Cole Finegan said the duo’s conduct was “horrific and morbid and driven by greed.” They took advantage of people in their most vulnerable times. He said he hopes their sentences deter others from committing similar offenses.
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