LEADVILLE, Colo. (KDVR) — The former elected coroner of Lake County, who resigned in disgrace, will serve 180 days in the Lake County Jail starting Thursday after pleading guilty to two counts of unlawful cremation.
Judge Catherine Cheroutes rejected a defense suggestion to give Shannon Kent only probation at Thursday morning’s sentencing hearing in Leadville.
Forty-seven-year-old Kent pleaded guilty on Dec. 22, 2022, after prosecutors in the 5th Judicial District agreed to dismiss 12 other counts against him including 5 counts of abuse of a corpse.
Kent was also originally charged with official misconduct and filing false health information when he was arrested in July 2021.
By then, the state of Colorado had revoked his mortuary license and Kent had agreed to give up ownership of six funeral homes he operated across the state.
Gruesome conditions at funeral home
The Problem Solvers first reported on Kent’s alleged crimes back in October 2020 after a search warrant executed by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office revealed gruesome conditions at his Leadville funeral home which was attached to Kent’s house at the time.
According to search warrant documents, deputies found the stench so bad they stopped the search to red-tag the building for hazardous waste.
Documents and video show deputies finding five bodies at the Bailey-Kent Funeral Home in Leadville with only one body identified simply as “John Doe” from 2013.
Deputies also discovered a pile of used body bags and used gloves, plus paperwork piled several feet high.
One section of the search warrant reads, “I observed a blue body bag, and appeared that a body was left out of refrigeration. This bag was leaking fluids out of the bag and onto the floor.”
Family files lawsuit against Kent
Detectives first began investigating Kent after a Leadville couple complained they received a large number of ashes when they collected the remains of their stillborn son.
They bought an urn that was supposed to be more than big enough to hold the remains of a 5-pound, 6-ounce baby boy, but the bag of ashes they received was several times too large for a stillborn baby.
The couple, who had named their son Donovan, filed a civil lawsuit against the funeral home in July 2020 that was later settled in April 2021.
The father of Donovan, David Roemer, wanted Kent to face a trial and testified at the sentencing that Kent, “lied to us, he insulted us, he demeaned us both, and asked us, don’t you know who I am?”
At the sentencing hearing, Kent suggested he was pleading guilty on behalf of an employee who committed the wrongdoing but said he took responsibility and told the court, “I would like to apologize and I am sorry for the loss of their child and the things that I did and said that contributed to his [David Roemer] additional guilt. I am sorry for that.”
Judge Cheroutes said Kent didn’t seem to accept responsibility and told Kent, “You became entitled and arrogant, you showed a lack of respect for the deceased, you negligently handled bodies and I think you breached the trust of this community.”
The judge said giving Kent probation or community service wouldn’t help Lake County since Kent has since moved out of state to Missouri.
In September of 2021, Kent was found of official misconduct and sentenced to six months of probation. He was acquitted of a second charge of perjury.
Kent’s wife faces her own charges
Kent’s wife, Staci, faces charges of her own for corpse abuse, unlawful cremation, care of bodies required and consumer protection violations. She’s due in court for a motion hearing later this month.
In June of 2022, the couple was found not guilty of attempted tampering with a deceased body and abuse of a corpse after Silverthorne police found a body at the couple’s Silverthorne funeral home on February 16, 2021, that had been laying in a coffin for nearly 19 months.
The found remains were of 42-year-old Victor Akubuo, a truck driver from California who had died in a car accident in Park County on July 30, 2020.