Two former funeral directors received long prison sentences Tuesday after they pleaded guilty to illegally selling bodies and body parts.
Megan Hess, 46, and her mother, Shirley Koch, 69, dissected and sold body parts and sometimes entire bodies from roughly 560 corpses without permission over an eight-year period while running the Sunset Mesa Funeral Home, according to BBC. The mother and daughter were sentenced to 15 years and 20 years in prison, respectively, for defrauding relatives and selling the parts to medical training companies.
Hess, who ran the funeral home in Montrose, Colorado, was found to have charged families up to $1,000 for cremations that never occurred, and even offered some cremations for free in exchange for body part donations, BBC reported.
An ex-funeral home owner and her mother, Megan Hess, 46, and Shirly Koch, 69, have been sentenced in Colorado following the pair selling clients body parts without the consent of family members…👇 pic.twitter.com/qnqhiqVevK
— The Shade Borough (@TheShadeBorough) January 4, 2023
“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 said in a court filing, according to Reuters. “Hess and Koch’s conduct caused immense emotional pain for the families and next of kin.”
The pair used forged donor forms and sold body parts such as legs, arms and even heads of the dead through Donor Services, a side business run on the same premises as the funeral home, BBC continued. Families that had used Hess’s cremation services later learned that they’d received the ash remains of multiple people.
Hess received the maximum sentence for her crimes. She was initially arrested in 2020 and charges with six counts of mail fraud and three counts related to the illegal transportation of hazardous materials, CBS News noted.
Some of the bodies Hess and Koch sold subsequently tested positive for a variety of infectious diseases — including Hepatitis B and C and HIV — after the pair assured buyers that the bodies were disease free, CBS continued. A lawyer for Hess told the court on Tuesday that she was motivated by a desire to advance medical research.