Colorado funeral home owner Megan Hess and her mother who sold body parts for cash get 20 years in prison

Colorado funeral home owner Megan Hess and her mother who sold body parts for cash get 20 years in prison
Megan Hess (L) and her mother Shirley Koch (R) were sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for selling body parts from their funeral home (Montrose County Sheriff's Office)

GRAND JUNCTION, COLORADO: On allegations of fraud and illegally selling body parts, a former owner of a funeral home in Colorado was given a 20-year term in federal prison. Megan Hess, 46, pleaded guilty to fraud in July 2022 after a 2018 investigation that exposed her for selling parts of dead bodies that were brought to the funeral home for cremation. 

Former employees revealed about the business that Hess and her mother Shirley Koch, 69, ran out of the Sunset Mesa Funeral Home in the sentencing hearing. They reportedly mutilated bodies and sold the parts while returning the ashes to the bereaved families. "This is the most emotionally draining case I have ever experienced on the bench," US District Judge Christine M Arguello said during the sentencing hearing in Grand Junction, Colorado, on January 3. "It's concerning to the court that defendant Hess refuses to assume any responsibility for her conduct." Koch apologized to the judge and accepted responsibility for her acts but the judge nonetheless imposed the maximum 20-year term permitted under the law. "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 which was reported by Fox News. "Hess and Koch's conduct caused immense emotional pain for the families and next of kin," the filing read.

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According to reports, Hess would market the body parts to businesses such as medical schools and other organizations. She offered free cremations in exchange for a corpse donation to others but would charge families up to $1,000 for cremations that never happened. She would then offer ashes made from a variety of dead bodies. The sale of body parts such as heads, arms, and spines for use in research or education is not prohibited by federal law even though selling organs is forbidden in the US.

At least 200 families were allegedly affected by the scam and they were shocked to discover the true fate of their dead loved ones. "Our sweet mother, they dismembered her," Erin Smith, a victim, told Fox News. "We don't even have a name for a crime this heinous."

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The "macabre" crime was highlighted by the prosecution who called it one of the most important cases involving body parts in modern American history. Hess's attorney said that Hess had wrongly been demonized as a "witch," "monster" and "ghoul." The judge ordered Hess and Koch to be sent to prison right away at the end of the sentencing hearing.

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