Funerals aren’t cheap so many bereaved families in Colorado were happy to find a funeral home offering lower cremation rates.
There was a gruesome reason for it – the dead bodies were sold to interested parties. In many cases, the families were given ashes belonging to totally unrelated persons.
The Sunset Mesa Funeral Home in Montrose, Colorado was operated by Megan Hess (43) and her mother Shirley Koch (66).
Soon after opening their funeral home back in 2009 they also set up a nonprofit donor services business, which actually made quite a profit for them.
Sold To The Highest Bidder
By the time of their arrest in March 2020, it is estimated that they harvested body parts from scores of dead people or sold completed corpses to educators, scientists, or people in the medical industry across the world.
According to the indictment, Hess and Koch made hundreds of thousands dollars from their side business.
They also took out the deceased person’s gold teeth and one year managed to finance a family trip to Disneyland with the proceeds.
Dead Bodies Harvested For Organs And Parts
In some cases, the pair obtained authorization from the families to remove specific organs, tumors, or patches of skin, which they promised would be donated to science.
It was a noble cause as this would greatly help people living with certain conditions, they said.
However, they went ahead and removed various other body parts to meet the demands of their customers.
The operation went ahead even when they did not get permission from the grieving families.
Sometimes they sold the entire body so they had to improvise when it came to returning the ashes to the families.
“Hess and Koch also delivered cremains [cremated remains] to families with the representation that the cremains were that of the deceased when, frequently, that was not the case.”
“Nevertheless, the families were charged, and paid typically $1,000 or more, for a cremation that never occurred. These families would receive cremains replaced or supplemented by Hess or Koch with the cremains from another person or persons,” according to the indictment.
“In each of these instances, the families would not have authorized donation had they been informed of what would actually be done with their loved one’s remains.”
To make sure their criminal acts were not discovered they had a policy of not allowing the families to remain alone with the dead bodies before the cremation.
Some people found that suspicious, others later recalled the pair being kind of creepy, but as they offered low rates they never ran out of bodies.