One funeral director, along with her mother, has been slammed with a prison sentence in the wake of chopping off and selling various body parts, or even whole bodies, from multiple hundreds of people without the consent or approval of their respective families.
“The defendants’ conduct was horrific and morbid and driven by greed. They took advantage of numerous victims who were at their lowest point given the recent loss of a loved one. We hope these prison sentences will bring the victim’s family members some amount of peace as they move forward in the grieving process,” stated U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan. “We sincerely hope this punishment deters like-minded fraudsters in the future.”
As the head of the Sunset Mesa Funeral Home in Montrose, Colorado, Megan Hess was issued a sentence of twenty years in prison this past Tuesday. Hess has elected to plead guilty early on to aiding and abetting, along with charges of mail fraud. Shirly Koch, Hess’ 69-year-old Mother, was issued a sentence of 15 years in prison in the wake of pleading guilty at an earlier point to also aiding and abetting, and mail fraud.
This past Tuesday, officials from the Department of Justice put forth their own statement, explaining just how Hess and a number of other people “stole the bodies or body parts of hundreds of victims, and then sold those remains to victims purchasing the remains for body broker services” for close to a decade, from the year 2010 all the way to 2018.
It was explained that Hess would meet the people who had lost their loved ones”[u]nder the auspices of Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors,” and during the conversation she and her team would tell the family that her group would cremate the body for them and return the ashes to the family members.
“Instead,” explained the DOJ officials, “the defendant and others would harvest body parts from, or prepare the entire bodies of, the decedents for sale in body broker services.”
The DOJ highlighted a number of times that Kock and Hess did not even talk about donating or selling body parts. They also failed to get approval to do so. during other times, if the process of donation was mentioned by Koch or Hess, the families “specifically rejected” it.
After failing to secure any sort of approval, “Koch and Hess recovered body parts from, or otherwise prepared entire bodies of hundreds of decedents for body broker services,” explained the department. When families did not allow any donation to take place, Hess and Koch “sold the remains of those decedents beyond what was authorized by the family,” which was normally only small amounts.
The pair also stated that they were going to be giving cremated remains back to the families, “when, frequently, that was not the case.”
Colorado officially stepped in to create a new law in 2018 about body broker companies in the wake of it being reported that the address for the funeral home run by Hess was being used to run a body donation company.