LAKE COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Two funeral homes owned by Lake County Coroner Shannon Kent are under investigation after law enforcement earlier this month found an unrefrigerated body, an abandoned stillborn infant, bags of unlabeled remains, and piles of used body bags and gloves.
Authorities have not charged Kent, though the state shut down two funeral homes located in Leadville and Gypsum. The Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) pulled the business licenses, shutting down both locations.
The probe of Kent’s funeral homes began in February after the Lake County Sheriff’s Office received a complaint about the funeral home’s handling of human remains.
A Leadville couple complained they received a large amount 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 lb., 6 oz. baby boy. But the bag of ashes they received was several times too large for a stillborn baby.
“When the ashes were finally delivered to them, the bag of ashes was so big, there was no conceivable way the ashes could fit into that urn,” said Remington Fang, the couple’s attorney. “They received about 20 times the amount of ash they should have.”
The couple, who had named their son Donovan, filed a lawsuit against the funeral home in July.
Fang said, “You’re hoping that through the purchase of an urn and cremation to have your son with you. Sorry, you want to remember the baby and have some closure.”
According to Fang, tests on the ashes revealed the bag contained more than human remains.
“The report we have says the bag contained at least one other individual but not only one other individual, but it contained portions of surgical material, metal and jewelry,” said Fang.
The attorney said his clients called repeatedly asking for their son’s ashes be returned. The couple expressed concern over a lack of chain of custody documents.
Earlier this month, the Lake County and Eagle County sheriff’s departments served a search warrant at the funeral home in Leadville where they “encountered a strong odor of decomposition,” according to DORA’s suspension documents.
Once inside the Bailey-Kent Funeral Home, a sheriff deputy’s report said authorities “found bodily fluids on surfaces throughout the business and used medical equipment stacked on the floor, all of which made it difficult to navigate through the building.”
Other issues deputies found include:
- Numerous unlabeled cremains
- Unidentified bodies in refrigeration wrapped in sheets or blankets
- Unmarked casket containing a stillborn
- Paperwork scattered several feet deep on the floor
Fang said, “I would hope that DORA and you know the agencies regulating these kind of activities would take a closer look at all of his funeral homes and make sure they protect the general safety and wellbeing of everybody.”
Sheriff deputies called in the Lake County Fire Department to assist. The building was red-flagged for waste until the health department could clear the area of bio-hazardous waste.
The coroner owns six funeral homes, according to his website. Kent did not respond to interview requests.
Kent also faces misconduct charges stemming from a September 2019 grand jury indictment. That case alleges Kent used his unlicensed wife to collect bodies and do other funeral home tasks which require a license.