Judge throws the book at former Colorado funeral director who secretly dismembered and sold body parts

The former owner of a Colorado funeral home has received the maximum sentence allowed by the law — 20 years in federal prison — for cutting up the bodies of 560 corpses and selling the body parts for profit, defrauding already grieving families of the dearly departed.

Megan Hess, 46, operated two businesses in Montrose, Colorado: a funeral home called Sunset Mesa, and, from the same building, Donor Services, a “body parts entity,” according to Reuters.

In July, Hess and her mother, 69-year-old Shirley Koch, pleaded guilty to fraud. Koch received 15 years for her involvement.

According to court records, the macabre task of chopping up the corpses of the deceased from her funeral home fell to Hess.

“Hess and Koch used their funeral home at times to essentially steal bodies and body parts using fraudulent and forged donor forms,” prosecutor Tim Neff argued in a court filing. “Hess and Koch’s conduct caused immense emotional pain for the families and next of kin.”

“Today means for us that justice is finally going to take place,” victim Maria Abachiche, whose brother’s body was sold to a plastination lab, told KREX News.

(Video: YouTube)

Prosecutors said victim funeral expenses and Sunset Mesa’s profits topped more than $1.25 million.

“When I got the news that the ashes I had was not my brother’s remains, cremains, to me, that day was like he died all over again,” said Abachiche.

At the sentencing, victim after victim took three full hours to implore the judge to hand down the toughest sentence possible for Hess.

U.S. District Judge Christine M. Arguello took the horror stories to heart, saying on Tuesday, “This is the most emotionally draining case I have ever experienced on the bench. It’s concerning to the court that defendant Hess refuses to assume any responsibility for her conduct.”

Both Hess and Koch were immediately sent to prison to begin their sentences on the judge’s order.

But, according to Hess’ lawyer, his client is a “broken human being” who has been unfairly painted as a “witch,” a “monster,” and a “ghoul.”

The attorney added that Hess suffered a traumatic brain injury when she was 18, which explained her gruesome actions.

While Hess didn’t address the judge, her mother said she took responsibility for her part in the nightmare-inducing scheme and apologized.

Among the 26 victims who came forward to deliver their impact statements was Erin Smith, whose mother’s shoulders, knees, and feet were sold for profit, Reuters reports.

“Our sweet mother, they dismembered her,” Smith said. “We don’t even have a name for a crime this heinous.”

Tina Shanon’s mother was also dismembered against her will and sold for parts.

“I’ve worn many masks to cover the pain,” Shanon told the court. “I’ll never be OK.”

Surprisingly, the practice of selling the heads, arms, and spines of the deceased for the purposes of research or education is unregulated by the federal government.

Hess’ criminal activity came when she lied about the cremations, for which she charged up to $1,000, and instead dissected the bodies and sold the parts without permission, thereby defrauding the relatives.

Other families were offered free cremations in exchange for donating a body, Reuters reveals.

In all, more than 200 families were lied to and given cremated ashes that were mixed with those of different cadavers, prosecutors said.


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