July 13, 2024

Colorado ex-funeral directors jailed for selling body parts

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Colorado ex-funeral directors jailed for selling body parts

*Megan Hess, owner of Donor Services, is pictured during an interview in Montrose, Colorado, U.S., May 23, 2016 in this still image from video. Image taken May 23, 2016. To match Special Report USA-BODIES/FUNERAL REUTERS/Mike Wood/File Photo

An ex-funeral homeowner and her mother have been sentenced in Colorado after selling body parts without any consent.

Megan Hess, 46, and Shirly Koch, 69, dissected some 560 corpses between 2010 and 2018, selling parts to medical training companies which did not know they had been fraudulently acquired.

Entire bodies were sold in some cases, prosecutors said. It is legal in the US to donate organs, but not sell them.

Hess was sentenced to 20 years in jail and Koch to 15.

Hess – who ran the Sunset Mesa Funeral Home in the town of Montrose – charged families up to $1,000 (£834) for cremations that never took place and offered them free of charge in exchange for body part donations in some cases, prosecutors said.

Without consent and using forged donor forms, she then sold body parts including arms, legs and heads through Donor Services, her side business on the same premises.

Several relatives who had used Hess for cremations later learned they had received back ashes mixed with the remains of other people.

“These two women preyed on vulnerable victims who turned to them in a time of grief and sadness,” Leonard Carollo, the FBI’s special agent in charge in Denver, said in a statement.

“But instead of offering guidance, these greedy women betrayed the trust of hundreds of victims and mutilated their loved ones.”

The case was triggered by a Reuters investigation, which led to an FBI raid of the home in 2018.

Emotional victim statements dominated Tuesday’s sentencing hearing.

“When Megan stole my mom’s heart, she broke mine,” said Nancy Overhoff, according to the Denver Post. Erin Smith said: “We came today to hear the handcuffs click.”

Describing it as “the most emotionally draining case I have ever experienced on the bench”, Judge Christine Arguello ordered the two women be sent to prison immediately.

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