Former Colorado funeral home operator gets probation for mixing cremated human remains

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FRISCO, Colo. — The former owner of two central Colorado funeral homes has been sentenced to a year of probation after pleading guilty to charges that her funeral home included the cremated remains of an adult when it gave the ashes of a stillborn boy to his parents in December 2019.

Staci Kent was also fined $5,000 when she was sentenced earlier this month, the Summit Daily reported.

Kent and her husband, former Lake County Coroner Shannon Kent, were charged with unlawful acts of cremation related to their funeral home in Leadville. They also owned a funeral home in Silverthorne.

Staci Kent pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful cremation, and a second count was dismissed. She also pleaded guilty to violating the mortuary consumer protection law. Prosecutors dismissed a charge of abuse of a corpse and a charge of violating a law that describes how funeral homes must care for bodies.

Shannon Kent pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful cremation in December 2022 and was sentenced February to six months in jail. As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors dismissed 12 other charges, including five counts of abuse of a corpse.

The case began when the mother of the stillborn boy contacted law enforcement in February 2020 to report that she had received more ashes than the infant-sized urn they purchased would hold, prosecutors said. A scientific analysis showed the cremated remains the family received included the remains of an infant and those of an adult, including a piece of an earring and surgical staples, indicating the infant may not have been cremated alone, prosecutors said.

When the family confronted Shannon Kent about the quantity of ashes, the father said Kent told him the additional material was from the cardboard box or the clothing in which the infant had been cremated, court records said.

The Leadville case wraps up as a couple that owned funeral homes in Colorado Springs and Penrose — Jon and Carie Hallford — face felony charges for failing to cremate nearly 200 bodies over a period of four years and giving some families fake ashes. The bodies were discovered in early October. The Hallfords are jailed with their bail set at $2 million each.

Colorado has some of the weakest rules for funeral homes in the nation, with no routine inspections or qualification requirements for funeral home operators.

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