Colorado funeral home guilty of selling body parts. Lots of them

Source: Hot Air

Bodies are piling up in China (literally) with a renewed wave of COVID sweeping across the country. But in Colorado, a different problem has cropped up when it comes to the bodies of the deceased. The owners of the Sunset Mesa funeral home are in a lot of trouble this week, with the founder preparing for a twenty-year stretch in prison. That’s because a lot of the bodies she was entrusted with seeing to their final rest didn’t wind up going where the decedent’s relatives were told they would be. In fact, hundreds of bodies left the facility in multiple deliveries. It turns out that Megan Hess and her mother had been promising to cremate all of those people’s remains, but instead chopped them up and sold the body parts. (Reuters)

A former Colorado funeral home owner was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison on Tuesday for defrauding relatives of the dead by dissecting 560 corpses and selling body parts without permission.

Megan Hess, 46, pleaded guilty to fraud in July. She operated a funeral home, Sunset Mesa, and a body parts entity, Donor Services, from the same building in Montrose, Colorado. The 20-year term was the maximum allowed under law.

Her 69-year-old mother, Shirley Koch, also pleaded guilty to fraud and was sentenced to 15 years. Koch’s central role was chopping up the bodies, court records show.

If you were unaware that there was a thriving market for human body parts in the United States, don’t feel alone. I would have assumed that there was always a need for some donated parts for scientific research and education, but it’s actually an industry. And as Reuters reports, it’s a very busy one and it’s almost entirely unregulated by the government.

The demand must be pretty high because Hess had gone through more than 500 bodies in a relatively short span of years. You might be tempted to think that twenty years is a fairly long sentence for abuse of a corpse, but there were more crimes than that being committed. Hess charged hundreds of families $1,000 dollars or more for cremations that never actually happened. That constitutes fraud, and they got her on a lot of counts of it. (Hess was giving the families urns of random cremains of other people.)

The funeral home was also filling out fraudulent donor forms and forging the signatures of the decedent’s loved ones on them before delivering the dissected parts. There are quite a few laws regarding the disposition of human remains, and Sunset Mesa seems to have managed to violate just about all of them.

In hindsight, the authorities might be wondering how they didn’t manage to catch this sooner. After all, Megan Hess was operating a funeral home and crematorium out of one side of the building and a body parts sales operation (“Donor Services”) out of a door on the opposite side. Hello? Might that not have been a red flag as soon as you looked at the place?

This case has left hundreds of families feeling absolutely gutted and there is no way to undo what was done at this point. The judge in the case described the trial as “the most emotionally draining case I have ever experienced on the bench.” When the final pronouncements had been made, she ordered that both Hess and Koch be transferred to prison “immediately.” The twenty-year sentence she handed down was the longest allowable by law.

This is a nightmare of a story, but it just goes to show you something we are sadly reminded of on a regular basis. You have to keep your eyes open and speak up if you see something that just doesn’t look right. There are bad people out there doing seriously bad things and they don’t all look or sound like “typical criminals.” Some are people who would be among the last you might suspect.