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Mortuary Owner Sentenced for Selling Bodies

National

Close-up of human feet in the morgue | Image by Ground Picture, Shutterstock

Megan Hess and her mother, Shirley Koch, chopped up 560 bodies at her father’s Colorado funeral home and sold the parts to medical schools that didn’t know the bodies and parts were stolen and belonged to someone’s loved one.

Hess, 46, was sentenced to 20 years, and Koch, 69, got 15 years, according to court records. Hess, who ran the Sunset Mesa Funeral Home in Montrose, Colorado, charged families up to $1,000 for cremations that never happened and, in other cases, promised them free services in exchange for body part donations.

She then sold body parts such as arms, legs, and heads without permission and used fake donor documents through Donor Services, her side business on the same site. Several family members whose loved ones were cremated by Hess later discovered that the ashes they got were not clean, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Attorney District of Colorado office.

“These two women preyed on vulnerable victims who turned to them in a time of grief and sadness,” said Leonard Carollo, FBI acting special agent in Denver, in court documents. “But instead of offering guidance, these greedy women betrayed the trust of hundreds of victims and mutilated their loved ones.”

Carollo said the women disrespected the grieving victims’ wishes and degraded their family members’ bodies to sell them for money without their knowledge or consent. Even after being exposed, these two criminals persisted in their crimes for years without expressing regret, according to Carollo.

“Nothing can guarantee solace for the victims or repair the damage done, but perhaps this sentence can mark the end of a horrible chapter in their lives,” he said.

“I take full responsibility for my actions,” Koch said in July, Reuters reported.

Hess, 45, admitted to fraud on July 5, but sentencing could not be agreed upon.

Court documents reveal that her daughter’s body broker business, Donor Services, removed the heads, spines, arms, and legs before selling them, primarily for surgical training and other educational uses, Reuters reported.

The government found out that the mother and daughter sold these bodies without permission and, in some cases, used fake documents to sell bodies with diseases like HIV and hepatitis, which is also against the law. During the hearing on Tuesday, FBI agent John Busch said that Hess copied the logos and taglines of a Denver-based organ and tissue company called Donor Alliance Inc. to trick families into thinking they could donate organs to help the blind see or the paralyzed walk with a new spine, the Denver Post reported.

Former employees spoke about how bodies were dissected without the families’ knowledge or consent in interviews. The FBI conducted a business raid shortly after the Reuters articles, and state regulators ordered the funeral home and crematory to close.

It was an emotional setting in Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, the Denver Post reported.

At one point on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Christine M. Arguello talked about her grief after losing her husband of 45 years. She also said that the seriousness of both defendants’ crimes put her in rarefied air.

“This case falls outside the heartland of any other cases in the United States,” the judge said. Arguello called the trial the most emotionally draining she’s ever handled.

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CITIZEN
CITIZEN
21 days ago

Hope there is no parole for these two.

Robert Hernandez
Robert Hernandez
21 days ago

The sentence is well deserved.

Citizen
Citizen
21 days ago

The damage to the families affected by the actions of these two criminals can never be made right. They should receive the max. Also disturbing is the quote in this article “Even after being exposed, these two criminals persisted in their crimes for years…”  This would indicate their actions were made public in some manner years prior and no one moved to stop them, so they continued unabated? The authorities did not think the situation was important enough to investigate?

E.M. Riegel
E.M. Riegel
21 days ago

Not much of a sentence.

Anna
Anna
21 days ago

OMGosh this is horrific at best and ghoulish at worst! 😱

Pap
Pap
21 days ago

15 & 20 years? They were both equally guilty. They should have gotten 560 years each. 1 year for every body violated.

Cricket
Cricket
21 days ago

Like the Bible says, “What will a man give an exchange for his soul?” For the ‘Love” of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and this heinous act is evil at it’s core, wow, the depraved mind…very sad…

RiverKing
RiverKing
21 days ago

“Even after being exposed, these two criminals persisted in their crimes for years without expressing regret, according to [FBI agent] Carollo.”

How? Were they released on bail to continue their criminal activities or did they do so while incarcerated?

Elizabeth Quinonez
Elizabeth Quinonez
21 days ago

It is very devastating for those families not only to lose their loved ones, but to learn the betrayed from those two women, that didn’t care for anyone else but themselves. We do live in fear each day, because we don’t know how the next day is going to be. So now we also have to fear those places as well. So where and when are we going to find peace and respect. Can’t have it while we are alive, won’t have it when we are death. What’s wrong with people anymore. Everything because of money. How sad. Hope they don’t let these two criminals out of prison at all.