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Funeral Home Or Body Snatchers?

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  • Tip Bones

A True Tale of Horror:

A mother and daughter, who managed a funeral home in Colorado were indicted for using the business to sell human remains without the consent of families, authorities said.

Megan Hess, 43, and Shirley Koch, 66, were arrested and charged with six counts each of mail fraud, and three counts each of, illegal transportation of hazardous materials.

Hess and Koch opened the Sunset Mesa Funeral Home in Montrose in 2009. That same year, Hess began a nonprofit donor services business that operated out of the same location as the funeral home, according to a press release by the United States Attorney's Office, District of Colorado.

A federal indictment opened on Tuesday, asserts that the donor service business would collect human remains, and sell them to customers, who applied them for scientific, medical, or educational purposes. Incidentally, this was also popular among the 17th century, during the H.H. Holmes era. 

H.H. Holmes cadaver era:  

So, between at least the 18th into the 19th century, anatomical specimens (cadavers, skeletons, bones, organs, etc.) were regularly presented to grave robbing or outright murder, such as the method implemented by serial killer H.H. Holmes. 

In other words, it would be assumed that the bodies provided by Holmes (or anyone else in this period) were individuals that were essentially 'forgettable' and expendable to the cause of medical science. Perhaps even worse, there may have been some suspicions that the bodies were those of murder victims, but a short supply of cadavers or skeletons could lead university officials to turn a blind eye to the source of specimens. Universities might have also intentionally kept no records on the source of skeletons to protect themselves from claims of "body-snatching" or acquiring body parts, from murdered people, and likely didn't ask the source, either. Further, universities and/or medical schools at this time did not have a set of universal research ethics or consent procedures for the use of human specimens. 

Prosecutors claim that the mother and daughter did not always have consent from families to donate the remains.

Hess and Koch employed the funeral home to offer grieving families cremation services, but "many never occurred," according to the press.

They either donated entire bodies or body parts without permission from the families.

Judy Cressler 54 at the Grand Junction VA Medical Center was part of a group of families fighting to find the locations of loved ones, sold or parted out, by Mega Hess of Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors, and Donor Services in Montrose.

"Hess and Koch also produced remains to families with the representation that the remains were that of the deceased when, frequently, that was not the case," the press stated.

The duo ran the scheme from 2010 to 2018 and charged at least $1,000 for cremation services. The indictment asserts that they obtained so much money from the donor services business, that they were equipped to offer lower-priced cremation services than different funeral homes in the region.

"As a result, Hess was able to secure a consistent quantity of bodies for her and Koch’s body broker services business," the indictment states.

It's estimated that Hess and Koch made hundreds of thousands of dollars from the donor services business, according to the indictment.

U.S. Attorney Jason Dun said the mother and daughter deceived the trust of families "during one of the worst times in a person's life."

“It is hard to imagine the pain and worry of those who used Sunset Mesa, and not apprehending what transpired of their loved ones’ remains," he said in a statement.

If convicted, Hess and Koch could face up to 135 years in prison.