Funeral Home Owner Pleads Guilty After Selling Body Parts

REUTERS/Mike Wood/File Photo

Mary Rooke Staff Writer
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Former Sunset Mesa funeral home owner Megan Hess pleaded guilty on Tuesday to federal charges she committed fraud by selling human body parts without permission.

Hess changed her plea from “not guilty” to “guilty” in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Gordon Gallagher in Grand Junction, Colorado, Reuters reported.

The report stated that Hess admitted to defrauding at least a dozen families using her human body parts business, Donor Services. She ran Donor Services out of the same building as her Montrose, Colorado, funeral home and sold the family members’ body parts without permission, according to Reuters.

Prosecutors said Hess charged the deceased’s family up to $1,000 to cremate their family members without ever completing the service, the report stated. (RELATED: REPORT: Couple Sues Boston Hospital For Allegedly Misplacing Remains Of Lost Infant)

Court records show that Hess, through Donor Services, harvested arms, legs, heads, and even spinal cords and sold them for surgical training and purposes, Reuters reported.

Instead of the cremated remains of their family members, many relatives were given ashes from common bins mixed with the ashes of different cadavers, with one family receiving a container filled with concrete mix, the report stated.

“Meeting with hospice on the 4th … opening the floodgates of donors,” Hess wrote to a potential body-part buyer in 2014, according to the outlet. “They have four or five deaths a day. Get ready!!!! … How about a deal on full embalmed spines … $950?”

Hess’s mother, Shirley Koch, has also been charged in connection with the scheme to sell human body parts without permission and plans to change her plea to “guilty” at her July 12 hearing, according to the Denver Post.

A former employee of Hess’, Kari Escher, told Reuters in 2018 that she witnessed Koch remove the gold fillings of the deceased’s teeth and use the money to pay for a trip to Disneyland.

Hess is scheduled for sentencing in January 2023, with the prosecution recommending the former Colorado funeral home owner receive 12 to 15 years in prison for her crime, the outlet reported.