Colorado funeral home owner Megan Hess admits selling body parts for cash

A former Colorado funeral director has pleaded guilty to secretly dissecting corpses and selling body parts without the consent of grieving relatives.

Megan Hess — who operated Sunset Mesa funeral home in Montrose and a human body parts business called Donor Services from the same building — admitted in federal court Tuesday to defrauding at least a dozen families who paid to have them cremated their deceased relatives.

Instead of cremating the bodies, she removed heads, spines, arms and legs, then sold them, according to court records.

Prosecutors are asking that Hess, who previously pleaded not guilty, be sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison. She has been out on bail since her arrest in 2020. Her defense attorney has asked for a lighter sentence of two years.

In 2009, Hess and her mother, Shirley Koch, started a nonprofit donor service organization called Sunset Mesa Funeral Foundation, a “body brokerage service” operating out of the funeral home doing business that would sell parts of the body to third parties – primarily for surgical training and other educational purposes.

Prosecutors want Hess to serve 12 to 15 years in prison.

The couple charged customers $1,000 or more for cremations that never took place. To maximize profits, Hess targeted poor and vulnerable families struggling as they made arrangements for their loved ones’ final days, according to court documents. She also offered free cremations in exchange for a body donation.

Many families received ashes mixed with the remains of different corpses, prosecutors said. A client received a concrete mix instead of the remains of his loved one.

Hess forged dozens of body donor consent forms, federal investigators have found. A former employee accused her of making $40,000 by mining and selling the gold teeth of some of the deceased as part of the macabre scheme, according to court documents.

“Meeting with the hospice on the 4th… opening the donor floodgates,” Hess wrote to a prospective body parts buyer in 2014. “They have four or five deaths a day. Get ready!!!!… How about a deal on fully embalmed thorns…$950?

Although it is illegal to sell organs such as hearts, kidneys and tendons for transplantation in the United States, the sale of cadavers and body parts for research or educational purposes is not regulated by federal law.

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