Former Montrose funeral home owner accused of selling bodies and body parts without consent pleads guilty

Published: Jul. 5, 2022 at 2:24 PM MDT
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MONTROSE, Colo. (KKCO) - Megan Hess, the former owner of Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors who sold hundreds of bodies and body parts illegally for eight years pleaded guilty to mail fraud on Tuesday.

Hess’ mother, Shirley Koch, was also involved. The two women were indicted in March of 2020, but as a result of this plea all other charges against Hess were dropped. The charges included five more counts of mail fraud and three counts of transporting hazardous material.

Hess stated that she exceeded the scope of consent, and that she’s trying to correct her mistake.

According to court documents, Sunset Mesa used low rates to exploit lower-income patrons to ensure an uninterrupted flow of body parts to sell. The two women created Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors in 2010 and sold bodies and parts for research for eight years, regardless of the family’s wishes.

Families who asked for cremation would often be given cremains that weren’t their loved ones or were outright fakes. In the few cases where families agreed to scientific donation of the body, Hess and Koch would sell far more of the body than what the family had consented to, which was typically limited to small tissue samples, tumors, or skin sections.

According to court documents, Hess and Koch sold hundreds of bodies without the consent of the deceased person’s family. The two would typically meet with families to provide cremation and burial services, often with no intention of providing actual funerary services.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office also stated that Hess and Koch would regularly ship bodies and body parts that contained dangerous biohazards, like HIV infected tissues, without telling the buyers. In some cases, the office claims, the two would outright lie about the body’s condition to prospective buyers.

Victims of Hess and Koch’s actions expressed displeasure during the court proceedings, saying that she didn’t show enough remorse.

“I’m taking responsibility,” Hess said. “I’m here to accept the plea. The families believe I went beyond the scope of the consent forms.

Hess will likely be sentenced in January, and mail fraud can result in sentencing of up to 20 years in prison. Koch is scheduled for a change of plea hearing on July 12.

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